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Acknowledgements "Basileus" by Robe'l 
Silverberg copyrighl 1983 by Agberg. Lid. 
"The Soul Painter and the Shapeshifier " 
and "The Palace ai Midnight" by Robed 
Silverberg copyright 1981 by Agberg. Lid 
Robert Silverberg Appreciation" by Harlan 
Ellison copyrighl £ 1983 by The Kilimanjaro 
Corporalion "Helen O'Loy by Lesler del Rey 
reprinted b\ permission ol the author and 
the author's agents, Scott Meredith Literary 
Agency. Inc . 845 Third Avenue. New York. New 
York 10022 "Down There" by Damon Knighl 
reprinted by permission ol the author. "The 
Touch'" by Gregory Benford copyrighl IB 1953 
by Abhenlord Assoc. Inc Cover painting 
by James Christen sen courtesy ot the Will Stone 
Collection Painlings pages 66 and 120-121 
by Gerard Di-Maccio courtesy ot Galerie 
Ra. Paris 


f. 10D22. All rights I 

tiing may b- 

le publisher Published 
ihe United Stales ot America 
and in Canada. First edition Printed in the 
United Slates ol America by Meredith Printing 
Corporalion and distributed in the U.S.A., 
Canada, U.S. territorial possessions, and the 
U.K.) by Curtis Circulation 
derson Drive. Wesl Caldwell, 
luted in the U K. by Comag 
ad, West Drayton. Middlesex. 

3 Certain ol the materials 
were previously published in 
Omni and were copyrighted 1978 to 1982 
inclusive by Omni Publications International 
Lid Omni is the registered trademark ot Omni 

world (except the 
Company. 21 Hei 
N.J. 07006. Distr 
Ltd . Tavistock Rt 
UB7 70E. Englar 





6 RAUTAVAARA'S CASE by Philip K. Dick 

11 A TRIBUTE TO PHILIP K. DICK by Michael Kurland 

12 ONLY YOU FANZY by Sherwood Springer 

14 LESSON ONE by James Randi 

17 PICTORIAL by Rudolf Hausner 

24 THE HUNTING OF HEWLISH by Sam Nicholson 

32 NEW IS BEAUTIFUL by Tony Holkham 





63 AN APPRECIATION by Harlan Ellison 


66 HELEN O'LOY by Lester del Rey 

71 PICTORIAL by Chesley Bonestell 

78 DOWN THERE by Damon Knight 


84 THE TOUCH by Gregory Benford 

THE LOST SECRET by Laurence M. Janifer 

101 VILLAGE OF THE CHOSEN by Alan Dean Foster 


108 MALTHUS'S DAY by Jayge Carr 

113 PICTORIAL by Gervasio Gallardo 

120 BODY BALL by John Keefauver 

124 PRIME TIME by Norman Spinrad 


139 PICTORIAL by Ernst Fuchs 


autavaara's Case" by Philip K. 
Dick is a startling and provocative metaphor concerning religion— in 
this "case" the ironic contrast between Christianity and the theology of 
a non-human species from a faraway planet. Glowing with vivid imagery, 
the story involves an extraordinarily unorthodox conflict over the doc- 
trine of the Eucharist. The message in Dick's brilliant construction is 
that one's faith may be another's anathema. 

Yiddish humor, such as that to be enjoyed in Sherwood Springer's 
"Only You Fanzy," is encountered from time to time in science-fiction 
literature. Avram Davidson has worked the vein — "The Golem," for ex- 
ample — as has William Tenn, who with hilarious effect gave us the 
memorable, "On Venus Have We Got a Rabbi." Springer's short-short 
concerns a madam and a Mr. Lefkoviz. He performs a mitzvah (good 
deed) on her behalf — but a mitzvah, maybe exactly it isn't. 

James Randi's "Lesson One" involves a venerable stage illusionist 
and his prodigiously gifted young protege. That Randi chose to write 
about such a pair will not surprise those readers who are aware of his 
colorful career as a magician and escape artist. But since he has also 
gained great notice as a dedicated debunker of ESP and other so- 
called paranormal performances, the denouement of his story is sure 
to raise some eyebrows. 

"The Hunting of Hewlish" by Sam Nicholson delineates the beguiling 
aspects of a highly evolved civilization on future Earth. It's a love story, 
although one quite different from the emotion-wrought romances all too 
familiar since the Age of Chivalry. Nicholson's vision takes place in a 
cool, super-sophisticated and somewhat complacent high-tech society. 

In "New is Beautiful," Tony Holkham presents a postwar world com- 
pletely different from that usually imagined. Instead of the stereotypical 
retrogression to a primitive status, mankind emerges as a race of Ein- 
steinian wunderkinder who are smart enough to know that even the 
brightest of students can be enriched by a wise, experienced tutor. 





The aliens saved the woman's life only 

to tind themselves defending 
their action before a board of inquiry 


The three technicians of the floating globe 
monitored fluctuations in interstellar mag- 
netic fields, and they did a good job until 
the moment they died. 

Basalt fragments, traveling at enormous 
velocity in relation to their globe, ruptured 
their barrier and abolished their air supply. 
The two males were slow to react and did 
nothing. The young female technician from 
Finland, Agneta Rautavaara, managed to 
gel her emergency helmet on, but the hoses 
tangled; she aspirated and died; a mel- 
ancholy death, strangling on her own vomit. 
Herewith ended the survey task of EX208, 
their floating globe. In another month the 
technicians would have been relieved and 
relumed to Earth. 


We could not get there in lime to save 
the three Earthpersons, but we did dis- 
patch a robot to see whether any of them 
could be regenerated. Earthpersons do not 
like us, but in this case Iheir survey globe 
was operating in our vicinity. There are rules 
governing such emergencies that are 
binding on all races in Ihe galaxy. We had 
no desire to help Earihpersons, but we obey 
the rules. 

The rules called for an attempt on our 
part to restore life lo the three dead tech- 
nicians, but we allowed a robol to take on 
the responsibility, and perhaps there we 
erred Also, Ihe rules required us to notify 
the closest Earth ship of the calamity, and 
we chose not to. I will not defend this omis- 

sion or analyze our reasoning al the lime. 

The robol signaled that it had found no 
brain function in the two males and that 
their neural tissue had degenerated. Re- 
garding Agnela Rautavaara, a slight brain 
wave could be detected. So in Rauta- 
vaara's case the robot would begin a res- 
toration attempt. Since it could nol make a 
judgmenl decision on its own, however, it 
contacted us. We told it to make Ihe at- 
tempt. The fault — the guilt, so to speak — 
therefore lies with us. Had we been on the 
scene, we would have known better. We 
accept Ihe blame. 

An hour later the robot signaled lhal it 
had restored significant brain function in 
Raulavaara by supplying her brain with 


oxygen-rich blood from her dead body. The 
oxygen, but nol the nutriments, came from 
the robot. We instructed it to begin synthe- 
sis of nutriments by processing Rauta- 
vaara's body, using it as raw material. This 
is the point at which the Earth authorities 
later made their most profound objection. 
But we did not have any other source of 
nutriments. Since we ourselves are a 
plasma, we could not offer our own bodies 
for the purpose. 

They objected that we could have used 
the bodies of Rautavaara's dead compan- 
ions. But we fell that, based on the robot's 
reports, the other bodies were too contam- 
inated by radioactivity and hence were toxic 
to Rautavaara; nutriments derived from 
those sources would soon poison her brain. 
If you do not accept our logic, it does not 
matter to us; this was the situation as we 
construed it from our remote point. This is 
why I say our real error lay in sending a 
robot rather lhan going ourselves. If you 
wish to indict us. indict us for that. 

We asked Ihe robot lo patch into Rau- 
tavaara's brain and transmit her thoughts 
to us so that we could assess the physical 
condition of her neural cells. 

The impression that we received was 
sanguine. It was at this point lhat we noti- 
fied the Earth authorities. We informed them 
ot the accident that had destroyed EX208; 
we informed them that two of the techni- 
cians, the males, were irretrievably dead; 
we informed them that through swift etforts 
on our part we had the one female showing 
stable cephalic activity— which is to say, 
we had her brain alive. 

"Her what?" the Earthperson radio op- 
erator said, in response to our call. 

"We are supplying her nutriments de- 
rived from her body — " 

"Oh, Christ," the Earthperson radio op- 
erator said. "You can't feed her brain that 
way What good is just a brain?" 

"It can think," we said. 

"All right We'll take over now," the Earth- 
person radio operator said. "But there will 
be an inquiry." 

"Was il not right to save her brain?" we 
asked. 'After all, the psyche is located in 
the brain. The physical body is a device 
by which the brain relates to — " 

"Give me the location ot EX208," the 
Earthperson radio operator said. "We'll send 
a ship there at once. You should have no- 
tified us at once before trying your own 
rescue efforts. You Approximations simply 
do not understand somatic life forms." 

It is offensive to us to hear the term Ap- 

proximations. It is an Earth slur regarding 
our origin in Ihe Proxima Centauri system. 
What it implies is that we are not authentic, 
that we merely simulate life. 

This was our reward in the Rautavaara 
case. To be derided. And indeed there was 
an inquiry. 

Within the depths of her damaged brain 
Agneta Rautavaara tasted acid vomit and 
recoiled in fear and aversion. All around 
her EX208 lay in splinters. She could see 
Travis and Elms; they had been torn to 
bloody bits, and the blood had frozen. Ice 
covered the interior of the globe. Air gone, 
temperature gone . . . What's keeping me 
alive? she wondered. She put her hands 
up and tduched her face— or rather tried 
to touch her face. My helmet, she thought. 
/ got it on in time. 

The ice, which covered everything, be- 
gan to melt. The severed arms and legs of 
her two companions rejoined their bodies. 
Basalt fragments, embedded in the hull of 
the globe, withdrew and flew away. 

Time. Agneta realized, is running back- 
ward. How strange! 

Air returned; she heard the dull tone of 
the indicator horn. Travis and Elms, grog- 
gily, got to their feet. They stared around 
them, bewildered. She felt like laughing. 
but it was loo grim lor that. Apparently the 
force ot the impact had caused a local time 

"Both of you sit down," she said. 

Travis said thickly, "I — okay; you're right." 
He seated himself at his console and 
pressed the button that strapped him se- 
curely in place. Elms, however, just stood. 

"We were hit by rather large particles.' 
Agneta said. 

"Yes," Elms said. 

"Large enough and with enough impact 
to perturb time," Agneta said. "So we've 
gone back to before the event." 

"Well, the magnetic fields are partly re- 
sponsible, "Travis said. He rubbed his eyes: 
his hands shook. "Get your helmet otf, Ag- 
neta. You don't really need it." 

"But the impact is coming," she said. 

Both men glanced at her. 

"We'll repeat Ihe accident," she said. 

"Shit," Travis said. "I'll take the EX out of 
here." He pushed many keys on his con- 
sole. "It'll miss us." 

Agneta removed her helmet. She stepped 
out of her boots, picked them up . . . and 
then saw the figure. 

The figure stood behind the three of them. 
It was Christ. 

"Look," she said to Travis and Elms. 

The figure wore a traditional white robe 
and sandals: his hair was long and f 
with what looked like moonlight, r 
his iace was gentle and wise. Just like in 
the holoads the churches back home put 
out. Agneta thought. Robed, bearded, wise 
and gentle, and his arms slightly raised. 
Even the nimbus is there. How odd that our 
preconceptions were so accurate! 

"Oh, my God," Travis said, Both men 
stared, and she stared, too. "He's come 
for us." 

"Well, it's fine with me," Elms said. 

"Sure, it would be fine with you," Travis 
said bitterly. "You have no wife and chil- 
dren. And what about Agneta? She's only 
three hundred years old; she's a baby." 

Christ said, "I am the vine, you are the 
branches. Whoever remains in me. with me 
in him. bears fruit in plenty: for cut off from 
me. you can do nothing." 

"I'm getting the EX out of this vector, " 
Travis said. 

"My little children." Christ said, "I shall 
not be with you much longer." 

"Good," Travis said. The EX was now 
moving at peak velocity in the direction of 
the Sirius axis; their star chart showed 
massive flux. 

"Damn you, Travis." Elms said savagely. 
"This is a great opportunity. I mean, how 
many people have seen Christ? I mean, it 
Is Christ. You are Christ, aren't you?" he 
asked the figure. 

Christ said. "I am the Way, the Truth, and 
the Life. No one can come to the Father 
except through me. If you know me, you 
know my Father, too. From this moment you 
know him and have seen htm." 

"There," Elms said, his face showing 
happiness. "See? I want it known that I am 
very glad of this occasion, Mr. — " He broke 
off. "I was going lo say, 'Mr Christ.' That's 
stupid; that is really stupid. Christ. Mr. Christ, 
will you sit down? You can sit at my console 
or at Ms. Rautavaara's. Isn't that right, Ag- 
neta 7 This here is Walter Travis; he's not a 
Christian, but I am; I've been a Christian 
all my life. Well, most of my life. I'm not sure 
about Ms. Rautavaara. What do you say, 

"Stop babbling, Elms," Travis said. 

Elms said, "He's going to judge us." 

Christ said, "If anyone hears my words 
and does not keep them faithfully, it is not 
I who shall condemn him, since I have come 
not to condemn Ihe world but to save the 
world; he who rejects me and refuses my 
words has his judge already." 

"There." Elms said, nodding gravely. 

Frightened, Agneta said to the figure. "Go 
easy on us. The three of us have been 
through a major trauma." She wondered, 
suddenly, whelher Travis and Elms re- 
membered that they had been killed, that 
their bodies had been destroyed. 

The figure smiled, as if to reassure her. 

"Travis," Agneta said, bending down over 
him as he sat at his console. "I want you 
to listen to me. Neither you nor Elms sur- 
vived the accident, survived the basal! 
particles. That's why he's here. I'm the only 
one who wasn't—" She hesitated. 

"Killed," Elms said. "We're dead, and he 
has come for us," To the figure he said, 
"I'm ready, Lord. Take me." 

"Take both of them." Travis said. "I'm 
sending out a radio HELP call. And I'm 
telling them what's taking place here. I'm 
going to report it before he takes me or 
tries to take me." 

"You're dead," Elms told him. 

"I can still file a radio report," Travis said. 
but his face showed his resignation. 

To the figure. Agneta said. "Give Travis 
a little lime. He doesn't fully understand. 
But I guess you know that; you know 

The figure nodded. 

We and the Earth Board of Inquiry lis- 
tened to and watched this activity in Rau- 
tavaara's brain, and we realized jointly what 
had happened. But we did not agree on 
our evaluation of it. Whereas the six Earth- 
persons saw it as pernicious, we saw it as 
grand— both for Agneta Rautavaara and 
for us. By means of her damaged brain, 
restored by an ill-advised robot, we were 
in touch with the next world and the pow- 
ers that ruled it. 

The Earthpersons' view distressed us. 

"She's hallucinating," the spokesperson 
of the Earthpeople said. "Since she has no 
sensory data coming in. Since her body is 
dead Look what you've done to her." 

We made the point that Agneta Rau- 
tavaara was happy. 

"What we must do." the human spokes- 
person said, "is shut down her brain." 

"And cut us off from the next world?" we 
objected. "This is a splendid opportunity 
to view the afterlife. Agneta Rautavaara's 
brain is our lens. The scientific merit out- 
weighs the humanitarian." 

This was the position we took at the in- 
quiry. It was a position of sincerity, not of 

The Earthpersons decided to keep Rau- 

tavaara's brain at full function with both 
video and audio transduction, which of 
course was recorded; meanwhile, the mat- 
ter of censuring us was put in suspension. 

I personally found myself fascinated by 
the Earth idea of the Savior It was, for us. 
an antique and quaint conception— not 
because it was anthropomorphic but be- 
cause it involved a schoolroom adjudica- 
tion ol the departed soul. Some kind of tote 
board was involved, listing good and bad 
acts: a transcendent reporl card such as 
one finds employed in the teaching and 
grading of elementary-school children. 

This, to us, was a primitive conception 
of Ihe Savior, and while I watched and lis- 
tened — while we watched and listened as 
a polyencephal ic entity — I wondered what 
Agneta Rautavaara's reaction would have 
been to a Savior, a Guide of the Soul, based 
on our expectations. 

Her brain, after all. was maintained by 
our equipment, by the original mechanism 
that our rescue robot had brought to the 
scene of the accident. II would have been 
too risky to disconnect it: too much brain 
damage had occurred already. The total 
apparatus, involving her brain, had been 
transferred to the site of the judicial inquiry. 
a neutral ark located between the Proxima 

Centauri system and the Sol system. 

Later, in discreet discussion with my 
companions. I suggested that we attempt 
to infuse our own conception of the After- 
life Guide of the Soul into Rautavaara's ar- 
tificially sustained brain. My point: It would 
be interesting to see how she reacted. 

At once my companions pointed out to 
me the contradiction in my logic. I had ar- 
gued at the inquiry lhat Rautavaara's brain 
was a window on the next world and. hence, 
justified— which exculpated us. Now I ar- 
gued that what she experienced was a 
projection of her own mental presupposi- 
tions, nothing more. 

"Both propositions are true," f said. "It 
is a genuine window on the next world, and 
it is a presentation of Rautavaara's own 
cultural, racial propensities." 

What we had, in essence, was a model 
into which we could introduce carefully se- 
lected variables. We could introduce into 
Rautavaara's brain our own conception of 
the Guide of the Soul and thereby see how 
our rendition differed practically from the 
puerile one of the Earthpersons. 

This was a novel opportunity to test out 
our own theology. In our opinion the Earth- 
persons' theology had been tested suffi- 
ciently and had been found wanting. 

We decided to perform the act. since we 
maintained Ihe gear supporting Rauta- 
vaara's brain. To us, this was a much more 
interesting issue than the outcome of the 
inquiry. Blame is a mere cultural matter; it 
does not travel at all well across species 

I suppose the Earthpersons could re- 
gard our intentions as malign. I deny that: 
we deny that. Call it, instead, a game. It 
would provide us aesthetic enjoyment to 
witness Rautavaara confronted by our 
Savior, rather than hers. 

To Travis, Elms, and Agneta, the figure, 
raising its arms, said. "I am the resurrec- 
tion. It anyone believes in me, even though 
he dies, he will live, and whoever lives and 
believes in me will never die. Do you be- 
lieve this?" 

"I sure do," Elms said heartily. 

Travis said, "It's bilge." 

To herselt, Agneta Rautavaara thought. 
I'm not sure. I just don't know. 

"We have to decide if we're going to go 
with him," Elms said. "Travis, you're done 
for; you're out. Sit there and rot — that's your 
fate." To Agneta he said. "I hope you find 
for Christ, Agneta. I want you to have eter- 
nal life like I'm going to have. Isn't that right, 
Lord?" he asked the figure. 

The figure nodded. 

Agneta said, "Travis, I think- -well, I feel 
you should go along with this. I—" She did 
not want to press the point that Travis was 
dead. But he had to understand the situ- 
ation; otherwise, as Elms said, he was 
doomed. "Go with us," she said. 

"You're going, then?" Travis asked with 
some bitterness. 

"Yes," she said. 

Elms, gazing at the figure, said in a low 
voice, "Quite possibly I'm mistaken, but it 
seems to be changing." 

She looked, but saw no change. Yet Elms 
seemed frightened. 

The tigure, in its white robe, walked slowly 
toward the seated Travis. The figure halted 
close by Travis, stood for a time, and then, 
bending, bit Travis's face. 

Agneta screamed. Elms stared, and 
Travis, locked into his seat, thrashed. The 
figure calmly ate him. 

"Now you see, " the spokesperson for the 
Board of Inquiry said, "this brain must be 
shut down. The deterioration is severe: the 
experience is terrible for her; it must end." 

I said, "Mo. We tram the Proxima system 
find this turn of events highly interesting." 

"But Ihe Savior is eating Travis!" another 
of the Earthpersons exclaimed. 

"In your religion," I said, "is it not the 
case that you eat the flesh of your God and 
drink his blood? All thai has happened here 
is a mirror image of that Eucharist."' 

"1 order her brain shut down!" the 
spokesperson for the board said; his face 
was pale: sweat stood out on his forehead. 

"We should see more first." I said. I found 
it highly exciting, this enactment of our own 
sacrament, our highest sacrament, in which 
our Savior consumes us. 

"Agneta," Elms whispered, "did you see 
that? Christ ate Travis. There's nothing left 
but his gloves and boots." 

Oh, God. Agneta Rautavaara thought. 
What is happening? I don't understand. 

She moved away from the figure, over to 
Elms. Instinctively. 

"He is my blood," the figure said as it 
licked its lips. "I drink of this blood, the 
blood of eternal life When I have drunk it, 
I will live forever. He is my body, I have no 
body of my own: I am only a plasma. By 
eating his body, I obtain everlasting life. 
This is the new truth that I proclaim, that I 
am eternal." 

"He's going to eat us. too," Elms said. 

Yes. Agneta Rautavaara thought. He is. 
She could see now that Ihe figure was an 
Approximation It is a Proxima life form, she 
realized. He's right; he has no body of his 
own. The only way he can get a body is — 

"I'm going to kill him." Elms said. He 
popped the emergency laser rifle from its 
rack and pointed it at the figure. 

The figure said, "The hour has come." 

"Stay away from me," Elms said. 

"Soon you will no longer see me," the 
figure said, "unless I drink of your blood 
and eat of your body. Glorify yourself that 
I may live." The figure moved toward Elms. 

Elms fired the laser rifle. The figure stag- 
gered and bled, it was Travis's blood. Ag- 
neta realized. In him. Not his own blood. 
This is terrible. She pul her hands to her 
face, terrified. 

"Quick," she said to Elms. "Say. 'I am 
innocent of this man's blood.' Say it before 
it's too late." 

"I am innocent of this man's blood," Elms 
whispered hoarsely. 

The figure fell. Bleeding, it lay dying. It 
was no longer a bearded man. It was 
something else, but Agneta Rautavaara 
could not tell what it was. It said, "Eli. Eli, 
lama sabachthani?" 

As she and Elms gazed down at it. they 

wa:chcd irlcnlly as Ihe figure died. 

"I killed it," Elms said. "I killed Christ." 
He held the laser rifle pointed at himself, 
groping for the trigger. 

"That wasn't Christ." Agneta said. "It was 
something else. The opposite of Christ." 
She took the gun from Elms. 

Elms was weeping. 

The Earthpersons on the Board of In- 
quiry possessed the majority vote, and they 
voted to abolish all activity in Raulavaara's 
artificially sustained bran. This disap- 
pointed us, but there was no remedy for 
such as we. 

We had seen the beginning of an ab- 
solutely stunning scientific experiment: the 
theology of one race grafted onto that of 
another. Shutting down the Earthpersons 
brain was a scientific tragedy. For exam- 
ple, in terms of the basic relationship to 
God, the Earth race held a diametrically 
opposite view from us. This of course must 
be attributed to the fact that they are a 
somatic race while we are a plasma. They 
drink the blood of their God; they eat his 
flesh; that way they become immortal. To 
them, there is no scandal in this. They find 
it perfectly natural. Yet to us it is dreadful. 
That the worshiper should eat and drink its 
God? Awful to us: awful indeed. A dis- 
grace and a shame -an abomination. The 
higher should always prey on the lower; 
the God should consume the worshiper. 

We watched as the Rautavaara case was 
closed— closed by the shutting down of 
her brain so that all EEG activity ceased 
and the monitors indicated nothing. We felt 
disappointment. In addition, the Earthper- 
sons voted out a verdict of censure of us 
for our handling of the rescue mission in 
the first place. 

It is striking, the gulf that separates races 
developing in different star systems. We 
have tried to understand the Earthper- 
sons. and we have failed. We are aware, 
too. that they do not understand us and are 
appalled in turn by some of our customs. 
This was demonstrated in the Rautavaara 
case. But were we not serving the pur- 
poses of detached scientific study? I my- 
self was amazed at Raulavaara's reacfion 
when the Savior ate Mr. Travis. I would have 
wished to see this most holy of the sacra- 
ments fulfilled with the others, with Rau- 
tavaara and Elms as well. 

But we were deprived of this. And the 
experimenl. Irom our standpoint, failed. 

And we live now, too, under the ban of 
unnecessary moral blame. 



In the Pantheon of science fiction writers, in that durasteel 
Valhalla With eternag as sp res 'C-served for those who Talked 
the Talk and Walked the Walk. Philip Kendred Dick's place 
is at the round table in a special corner of the Great Mar- 
bleoid Hall next to Ihe electric fire — Ihe table reserved for 
those who have striven and succeeded in that most noble 
and most difficult task a writer can attempt: making his read- 
ers think. 

It is good to entertain one's readers; but, after all, that is 
a given. The reader is not captive. If he is not entertained in 
some suitable fashion, he will close the book. Making the 
reader empathize with the characters, making the reader 
laugh, cry, gasp in fear, tremble with delight- -all these gain 
the writer a seat in Ihe Great Marbleoid Hall. But making the 
reader think, ah, there is the test of the Hero. For such is the 
round table reserved. And there sits Philip K. Dick now, deep 
in argument with the lady on his left. 

II is my feeling that Phil, in his own mind, wrote neither 
science fiction nor fantasy. Conceivably, he didn't write fiction 
at all. Dick spent his life in a strange and alien universe, which 
interfaced with ours only occasionally, briefly, and unpre- 
dictably. He was the chronicler of Oz. It was his genius to be 
able to transcribe the vision of his universe in all its mad glory, 
and to exhibit it before his readers like a wizard lapidarist 
displaying the many facets of a prize adamant. 

Phil wrote of the future, yes. but it was the fearsome future 
of his personal world — a world where the free will of man was 
increasingly hedged in by the obsessive rules of a society 
not of his making and by the bizarre abilities of machines 
past his understanding. 

The question of free will permeates Phil's writing. For him 
the individual mind was the ultimate castle, constantly under 
siege by the blind forces of nature, the enmity of one's fellow 
man, and the cunning malice of animate machines. 

Philip K. Dick's fiction is a complex mosaic of ideas, per- 
sonalities, contrivances, devices, and imagery, contained in 
a multilayered universe which only gradually reveals itself. It 
is a universe usually not very pleasant, though the people in 
it are, if anything, all too human. No heroes to be found here; 
just fallible human beings, endowed by their creator with fair 
shares of greed, tear, ignorance, and ineptitude. And these 
mundane people, with whom we reluctantly but forcefully 
relate, go through their dreary daily chores in fearsome and 
oppressive surroundings, the least of which would daunt a 
Heinlein hero. 

Although he concentrated on his protagonist and the hu- 
man situation surrounding him, Phil Dick was unusually pro- 
fligate with those structural and social ideas that are the heart 
and muscle of science fiction. Phil would throw away in a 
one-line reference a notion around which some less holo- 
phrastic writer would craft an entire novel. The film Blade 
Runner, for example, is based on something less than five 
percent of the Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of 
Electric Sheep 7 

We can see ourselves mirrored in a Phil Dick novel. We 
see the world around us and its various institutions, but the 
Phil Dick mirror gives us a very special view. We look around 
facades and behind screens and clearly discern the con- 
fused little man turning the cranks and pulling Ihe knobs that 
operate the Mighty W\zatd. 

Philip K. Dick, a prolific, internationally renowned SF au- 
thor, died of a stroke on March 2, 1982 in Los Angeles, Cal- 
ifornia. He was 53 years oid. 

Michael Kurland, himself an SF author (including Pluribus 
and The Unicorn Girl,), knew Dick well when they both lived 
in Marin county. 

He could afford the best, but this one was on the house 


Throughout the habitable domes of the 
solar system, from Venus to the 
moons of Jupiter, there are beings 
who will tell you. if the subject comes up. 
that the Titanians as a race are shrewd, 
crafty opportunists of a high order. 

This, of course, is a myth. True, there are 
natives of Titan who may possess these 
characlerislics, but they are probably no 
more numerous, relatively speaking, than 
similar inhabitants of any other clime. If 
pressed for an example, however, one might 
bring up Mr. Lefkoviz. 

One evening, at the tail end of a busi- 
ness trip to Mars, Mr. Lefkoviz rode a rack- 
shu along the silicon streets of Crater City 
until, finally, he reached the D2 Mescence 
Mall. Fanzy's Place was third on the left. 

Mr. Lefkoviz banged on the door with his 
muggerstik. Through a peephole a pair o( 
purple eyes gave him the once-over. The 
door slid sideways, and Mr. Lefkoviz 
crossed the threshold. 

"Can I help you?" the girl asked. Clad 
only in sandals and a simple yellow tunic 
that was draped to a point lifteen centi- 
meters below her navel, she was obviously 
a Callistan, violet skin and all. 

"I'm looking for Fanzy," Mr. Lefkoviz said. 

"You have an appointment?" 

"No appointment." 

"Can you tell me the nature of your busi- 

"In such a place there is another kind of 

"Oh." the girl said. "In that case /'//show 
you around." 

"No, I have to have Fanzy." 

"I'm sorry. That's impossible ." 

"Why impossible?" 

"For one thing, Fanzy's not one of the 
girls. She's director here. And for another, 
she's retired. From floor duly, that is." 

"That she can be telling me herself. Tell 
her Mr. Lefkoviz is here." 

Persistence may indeed be the most 
powerful force in our society. It was ob- 
vious the violet-skinned filly was not going 
fo dissuade Mr. Lefkoviz from reaching his 
objective. She decided to let her boss han- 
dle the situation. 

The director was working on govern- 
ment forms when Mr. Lefkoviz was ush- 
ered into her office. If one liked his females 


ample, Fanzy was ample. What was more, 
even a critical connoisseur of amplitude 
would have been forced to admit that 
Mother Nature, in overendowing, had used 
fine judgment in contouring the land- 

"What do you want 7 " Fanzy asked. 

"I want you, Fanzy." 

"Are you some kind of nut or some- 

"Is it only a nut, Fanzy, that would ask 
for you?" 

At this, she dropped the papers on to 
her desk and looked at Mr. Lefkoviz with 
mild interest. Middle-aged, balding a little 
on top, a certain thickening at the belt line. 
and apparently an outlander with antece- 
dents not dissimilar to her own, Mr, Lef- 
koviz in no way turned her off physically. 
In addition, he had that air of assurance, 
quiet humor, and flattering determination. 
He also was — 

Fanzy slapped a lid on her thoughls. She 
already had an adequate lover. As for 
business, going back on the floor was just 

"Mr. Lefkoviz, it's out of the question. One 
of my delightful playmates will take care of 
you. Have you ever been caressed by a 
furry wogglie from Ceres? She's soft as a 
teddy bear." 

"No, Fanzy. A wogglie I don't want." 

"How about a mermaid, then? They do 
it, too, you know. You just have to know 
which scales to lift," 

"Oh? Every day I learn. " 

"How about trying one of our rare woo- 
woo androids, imported from Stateside? 
Among other things, she'll blow your mind." 


"Well, then, we come to the giant vulva 
plant from Venus. You can slip into her up 
to your armpits. Believe me, the massage 
you get from her is the living end. I mean 

"It's no use My mind is made up. For 
you I've got plenty of robles. How much do 
you want?" 

There is no shaking this clown. Fanzy 
thought. Her simplest course was to name 
a figure so outrageous the poor John would 
have to beat a retreat. She stood up, 
stretched her arms out to the side, and 
gazed down at her extensive mammary 


architecture. Sums clicked in her head. 

"We're looking at five hundred robles, 
Mr. Lefkoviz," she said. 

Mr. Lefkoviz was also staring at the ar- 
chitecture. Then, pulling out a small roll of 
currency, he peeled off five crisp hundred- 
roble notes and placed them on the desk 
in front of her. 

"So who haggles?" he said. 

Fanzy took a deep breath and let it es- 
cape through her teeth. There was no way 
out for her now. but — what the hell, she 
thought, five hundred robles was five 
hundred robles. As she picked up the 
money and placed it in a desk drawer, she 
couldn't help wondering what the current 
record was in the G'ness Book. 

An hour later she accompanied him per- 
sonally to the door. It certainly had been 
an interesting evening. Maybe she should 
keep her hand in occasionally just for 
practice. Too bad Lefkovizes came along 
only once in a lifetime. 

In that, Fanzy was wrong. 

Early the next morning the door in D2 
Mescence Mall was again hammered by 
a muggerstik. There stood Mr. Lefkoviz. 

"All night I couldn't sleep, thinking of you," 
he said to Fanzy, who hadn't yet got the 
blanket fuzz out of her eyes. 

"My God, Mr. Lefkoviz, it's the crack of 
dawn. Can't we have some coffee?" 

"So fine, bring coffee." 

Fanzy looked at him with suspicious eyes. 
"My price, you know, is no cheaper this 

Without a word Mr Lefkoviz brought out 
what was left of the roll and handed it to 
her. She leafed through it and found it pre- 
cisely correct. They dawdled through cof- 
fee, and Fanzy led him upstairs. 

This time, at leave-taking, she held onto 
his hand. All things considered, clients of 
his caliber should be tendered some ap- 

"When am I going to see you again?" 
she asked. 

"Who knows?" he said, "I'm going back 
to Titan today." 

"Titan? Why, what a coincidence! My 
mother lives on Titan." 

"I know," said Mr. Lefkoviz. "She gave 
me a thousand robles to give to you." 


ed (or (he past five 
" "ountinq the 

and he looked up just as the 

stened. he heard something 

ind polite inquiries, 
the Big Question. 

seemed to have sprung up between them. 
With total candor, Willie admitted that he 
had been in trouble with the law. Nothing 
serious, but ii had meant not graduating. 
To Rumson, the pattern was familiar. His 
long-standing and otten-contirmed claim 
was that people who entered this calling 
were misfits unable to find a proper fit with 
the rest of humanity — odd-shaped per- 
sonalities with hard-to-accept ways of 
thought and behavior who carved their own 
places in society by synthesizing a fantas- 
tic environment of their own. He recog- 
nized in the eager youngster the hunger 
that he himself had felt at that age— the 
need to learn and grow in this difficult busi- 
ness. It was only done at the feet of a mas- 
ter, and as the two of them stepped into 
the huge house that the boy had only read 
about but had not dared to hope he might 
visit, Rumson telt the weight of his sud- 
denly acquired responsibility. 

There was the required tour of the place, 
with pauses to examine the artifacts gath- 
ered over the years from all parts of the 
world. They found the secret buzzer that 
opened the bookcase, which revealed a 
locked door behind it. They noted the 
strange wall clock with the numbers subtly 
transposed. A clap of the hands — per- 
formed just so — flooded the house with The 
Planets of Gustav Hoist from concealed 

The questions spilled from the boy with- 
out pause, and by the time they troubled 
to look, it was past midnight. The small 
room, the one with the sloping ceiling 
against the roof, was assigned to the kid. 
Meanwhile, Rumson went about covering 
up the birdcages and latching the doors 
in the usual bedding-down routine. Rum- 
son wondered how this pupil would work 
out, but he gave up such speculation as 
premature. It would be weeks before he 
would be able to answer that question. 

As he ushered the cat out of his den for 
the night, he heard a small voice at the top 
of the stairs. The boy, outlined against the 
hall light, called him. "Mr Rumson, do you 
... do you know about the real magic, too?" 

Rumson's heart sank as he heard these 
words. He had been hesitant to broach that 
subject with the boy, hoping that it would 
never come up. Palmistry, astrology, all the 
usual claptrap, he supposed. The other 
studenl, years back, had been like that, 
always coming up with that kind of crap. 
That one hadn't lasted long. 

"You'd better come down here, and we'll 
talk awhile," Rumson said. As the boy made 

his way down the narrow stairs, Rumson 
began taking well-worn books from the 
ceiling-high cases. There were the long 
rows of books that were marked with red 
dots on the spines. Those were on conjur- 
ing. Although there were many volumes on 
that subject, there were twice as many that 
bore blue labels— the group Rumson pre- 
ferred to call the bullshit section. From 
among them the older man chose several. 

The boy seemed rather apprehensive. 
Perhaps he realized that he had hit a sore 
spot. He couldn't help having heard about 
Rumson's constant battle against the 
paranormalists. his many articles and sev- 
eral books on the subject, and his frequent 
lectures delivered at places of learning all 
over the world. Rumson had discovered 
that the boy knew his personal history quite 
thoroughly, and that was part of what made 
him the Great Rumson. 

"Look, young man. I've been poking 
about in this magic business twice as long 
as you've been alive. Do you know what 
magic really means? The dictionary says 
it's 'an attempt by man to control nature by 
means of spells and incantations.' Well. I've 
tried spells and incantations. They don't 
work. Cheating works. That's what you and 
I are involved in. We're actors playing the 
parts of magicians. But real magic? As the 
man said. 'No, Virginia, there is no Santa 
Glaus.' " 

"I think you're wrong," the boy said very 
quietly. There was a total stillness in the 
room, broken only when Rumson took a 
deep breath and looked over his glasses 
at the boy, who met his gaze confidently. 

"Well, I may be. And perhaps you can 
prove it. But I very much doubt it." He put 
his hand on the small stack of books that 
he'd selected. "I've confronted the authors 
of all these books — scientists, mind you — 
and I've beaten every one of them flal." He 
could not resist the dramatic gesture that 
suggested itself, and with his index finger 
he toppled the stack across the table. 

"I've gone about for fifteen years now 
offering this check," he said, tossing into 
the boy's lap the thin black wallet that he'd 
waved before so many other audiences, 
"payable to anyone who can produce just 
one 'psychic' miracle for me. Fifteen years. 
And I never gave up a nickel." 

They both waited. Rumson's cat walked 
stiff-legged across the table, picking her 
way among the fallen books. The huge 
clock on the far wall ticked thunderously. 
Then the boy spoke. 

"I've been doing some things t don't un- 

derstand. I came to the city to look for you 
because I thought you perhaps could tell 
me what it's all about. I've been to some 
of the labs where they test these things." 
He fouched one thick volume on the table. 
"I spent a whole day with this guy, He was 
a dummy. Fell for everything. Used to read 
magic magazines and thought he knew the 
whole thing. Anything I did fooled him. and 
he wanted to stick me in a cage to test me." 
Looking a bit taller than before, the boy slid 
off the chair and stood up. "But I didn't 
show him any of the real stuff, because he 
thought he could stick it in a test tube." 

"Go to sleep, Willie. We'll talk in the 
morning," Rumson said -wifh a sigh. And. 
he Ihought silently, in the morning either 
he'd convince him he was wrong or he'd 
be on his way. The years that had passed 
had not faded the memory of his own bat- 
tle against the irrationality that hinted of su- 
pernormal powers that seemed just out of 
reach, and he was not about to enler fhe 
lists again to fight that enemy. 

The boy climbed to the upper room, fol- 
lowed by the fickle cat. and Rumson turned 
wearily (o his own room and sleep. 

Like electricity. No, more like the smell 
of a hot soldering iron. It was a foreign sort 
of flavor in the air that Rumson could not 
label but that had brought him out of bed 
with a start. A glance showed it was very 
close to sunrise, and there was a tingling 
presence all about that was not part of any 
experience he'd ever known. It had to be 
the boy, he thought, and he headed for the 
stairs. The door to the room was just barely 
open, and the cat lay sphinxlike staring into 
the soft gray glow that came from beyond 
that door. As he mounted higher, the tin- 
gling and the tension he felt mounted, too. 

He reached the landing. Now he saw 
into the boy's room. Willie was sealed on 
the rug. forehead beaded with sweat, to- 
tally occupied with staring at a ball-point 
pen fhat lay before him. The tip of the pen 
rose slowly and sank again. Again it rose, 
and it remained erect. The entire pen ro- 
tated and then rose an inch, then two. The 
boy was frozen in the effort. Rumson walked 
into the room to the boy's side, and he didn't 
know whether he made a sound. He knew 
what he had to do. 

Together, the pupil and the master put 
their wills to work on the object before them. 
It rose strongly this lime, steadily and surely. 

In the back of Rumson's mirid a thought 
flitted. He had not been a pupil in a long 
time. This was real. This was Lesson One. 

BwSl^S.-' jM 

^^ / . -^ 

^^^a Bfcr*~~ 

■■■:.;'.:■■ ' 



"We'll hui 

"The rulers ol fr\e galaxy 

like low-soaring birds over the deep blue 
Terran waves. 

"How beautiful!" Roxanne exclaimed. 

"From here, yes. A wretched sport. One 
climbs into a narrow shell lhat dips and 
tilts- — and the sun inflames the skin — and 
the salt foam stings the eyes — and one must 
grasp horrid, wet ropes." 

"We've never hunted sailors." 

"That's true. But let's hunt them on land." 

'A hunt is a hunt, dear Sibyl. Shall we 
share or divide our prey?" 

"Sailors are not wealthy men. Even a 
whole one apiece will scarcely make the 
hunt worth the effort." 

"How can you be so stupid? Sailing is a 
wealthy sport." 

"And therefore, dear Roxanne, the 
sportsmen are poor." 

Sibyl turned with a flouncing of lace and 
sank into the soft cushions nested on the 
opalescent floor. She picked up a crystal 
cube and pressed it. 

An inner wall of the room became a 
viewing screen. Rainbows pinwheeled into 
infinity as a voice asked, 'Animal, Vege- 
table, or Mineral?" 


"Primates or nonprimates?" 


"Human or subhuman?" 


"Terran or Galactic?" 


The pinwheels froze. Sibyl called to Rox- 
anne. "Come and help me. How do I an- 
swer? There are sailors on all the water 

Roxanne swung from the window and 
sat beside her sister. "Well, do we want to 
hunt Gaiactics?" 

"1 really can't like Gaiactics. They're either 
the wrong shape or too knobby or wear 
their ears and eyes at odd angles." 

"Then you know the answer." 

Sibyl restarted the pinwheel and said, 

The voice intoned, "Name the cat- 
egories, from the greater to the lesser." 

Sibyl sighed and said carefully, "Human 
sports. Sailing. The Atlantic Rift Regatta. 
Now inform." 

The pinwheels gave place to a view of 
the sailcraft now jostling for position be- 
yond the starting buoys for the first race. 

"Oh, drat," said Sibyl. "I programmed 
wrong. These are only the boats." 

"You should have continued the cate- 
gories and said, 'Teams.' Now you'll have 
to begin all over again." 


"I won't. I hate voice programming. It was 
my worst subject at school. Roxanne, dear, 
begin all over again for me." 

"No. Let's watch the boats. How else can 
one hunt sailors?" 

Sibyl leaned back against the cushions, 
one arm curved over her head. "I wonder. 
Does passion rose scent go with satin?" 

"The boats are very beautiful." 

Sibyl's smooth, curling lashes sank to 
rest on her cheeks, and she slept. 

The race took all afternoon to sail the 
ancient Olympic circle. Roxanne followed 
the maneuvers closely. When the race was 
over, she softly ordered the screen, "Hold 
for further category." 

The three-dimensional scene froze in its 
exuberance of sail and spray. Roxanne 
looked at her sister. Sibyl was listening 

"Teams," Roxanne murmured to the cube. 
"Today's winner. Now inform." 

A sailboat flashed onto the screen and 
froze for a moment while the voice said, 
"Name, Terran Hope." Another flash, and 
a grizzled, still-handsome old salt stood 
there, a broad smile on his face and a sharp 
squint to his eyes. The voice said, "Name, 
Captain Mack." 

"Truly a brave breed," Roxanne ob- 
served, "to court wind erosion of the flesh 
and solar burning." 

One after another the Terran Hope's 
crewmen were displayed on the screen, 
until a firm-jawed young man looked into 
the recording lens. They scrutinized his 
handsome face. He had a serious coun- 
tenance and was frowning slightly, as if re- 
senting the necessity of facing the throng 
of reporters gathered for the regatta. 

The voice intoned, "Name, Hewlish." 

Roxanne gasped. "Hold!" She studied 
the young man, then said, "Clear!" 

The screen resumed being a wall, Rox- 
anne jumped up. Sibyl stirred and re- 
sponded languidly. "Where are you going?" 

"Hunting. Will you come?" 

"Beating the bushes isn't my style." 

"No, dear Sibyl. You're the python coiled 
on a limb above the water hole." 

"The regatta teams will be at tonight's 
ball. Good hunting, sister." 

Roxanne left the room and entered her 
dressing alcove. 

Sibyl lay dreamily winding a blond curl 
around one pearly finger, thinking of Hew- 
lish — the hunting of Hewlish. 

The sailcraft bobbed in their slots about 
the yacht basin, prows to the pier and stern 

lines to buoys aft. The sails had been taken 
down and stowed away, carefully, and the 
masts were but skeletons of glory. 

The sailors were still leaving the boats. 
Only Captain Mack and young Hewlish re- 
mained aboard the Terran Hope. 

The skipper eased the tension of the jib- 
stay, walked lithely aft to the cockpit, where 
Hewlish was sitting, and grunted, "Coming 
ashore? We won't be altering anything for 
tomorrow's race." 

"I'll stay awhile, Captain. I'm enjoying the 
sea. wringing my holiday of every drop." 

"You're fatigued." 

"I'm enjoying that, too." 

"As you like." 

Captain Mack turned toward the bow 
again, but stopped. A slim, white-cloaked 
girl, sun cowled and gloved, was standing 
on the pier. Under the cloak her daytime 
suit clothed her in gold from her cushioned 
soles to her throat. 

She spoke in a low voice. "Captain Mack, 
congratulations. I'm Roxanne. May I come 
aboard 9 " 

"Sorry, no." 

"Why not?" 

"To be frank, I know about you and your 
sister. The huntresses. The Hope's win to- 
day gives us honor, not wealth." 

"I'm not hunting now. I'm curious. What 
is this satisfaction for which you roughen 
and abuse your body?" 

Hewlish had come forward from the 
cockpit. "The freedom of direct action, 
without robot interference." He spread out 
his palms. "These hands haul the sails." 

"Thus you've bruised and wounded 

'And toughened them." 

"How strange! I thought you would say 
the beauty of the boats fascinated you." 

"The aliveness of the boats. My own 
aliveness. It's a feeling Terra lost many 
centuries ago, Look at you, Roxanne — 
cosseted, eating what robots give you, 
making up deficiencies with pills instead 
of with air and sunlight. A huntress? I pity 
the fool who lets you catch and bleed him!" 

"But I'm not hunting now. I don't under- 
stand the aliveness of sailing. Can you ex- 
plain it?" 

"It can't be meaningfully explained, only 

"Take me sailing." 

Captain Mack growled, "Ask at the other 

"No. I expect to be drenched, buffeted, 
bruised, and salt stung. The only compen- 
sation will be the undergoing of the fright- 

ful ordeal with the expected winners." 

"You'll get seasick, too," the skipper 

"What is seasickness?" 

Captain Mack smiled. "Want to sail, hey? 
Come here at O nine hundred hours to- 
morrow. Hewlish and I will take you for a 
short run before the wind freshens." 

"Thank you. I'll be here." 

She bowed and walked away, swiftly and 

Hewlish asked, "Why did you do that?" 

"To get rid of her. She'll forget and ov- 
ersleep. Huntresses don't rise early." 

"Why would men pay to have her? Sex 
is free, reciprocal." 

"It's not payment on demand. The men 
enjoy — and bestow, endow." 

"What for? It doesn't seem logical." 

"It's not. It's a primitive magic — a be- 
witchment. Stay clear of Roxanne and Si- 
byl, Hewlish, or before you know it, you'll 
be without a credit to your name." 

"Heed your own warning, skipper. You 
were the one who invited her aboard." 

"She won't come. Don't sit here, won- 
dering about her. There'll be plenty of 
women at the ball tonight." 

The first-race ball was past its full tide 
and on the ebb when Captain Mack ar- 
rived, clad in his dress uniform. He saun- 
tered around the circumference of the great 
circular hall, smiled benevolently at the 
dancers, bowed here and there to ac- 
quaintances, and finally set his course for 
the tables in the refreshment bay. 

Alone at a near table sat Hewlish. cor- 
rectly but not festively attired. He beck- 
oned the captain to join him. 

Captain Mack seated himself and said, 
"I thought you'd have paired off and been 
gone by now." 

"Pairing seemed too routine — too cut and 
dried. The women seemed dull. I suppose 
it's their contrast to Roxanne." 

"What could you see of Roxanne? Just 
a shadowed face inside a hood." 

"Well, I can't get her out of my mind. 
Maybe it was her voice, or her manner." 

"So you've been waiting for her?" 

"She didn't come. I don't know what I've 
been waiting for. When did you get here?" 

'Uust now— to be courteous to the re- 
gatta committee. I'm singleminded about 
regattas. Women don't interest me when 
I'm competing. All I think about is winning." 

"The winning boat will have to compete 
on Trivector. A shallow, rocky sea, and the 
three moons play havoc with the tides. The 

Trivec scouts are here already." 

■ "Let 'em scout. Could you crew out there 

for the Hope?' 

Hewlish drew a deep breath. "No. I can't 
get dispensation. You're lucky, being re- 
tired and rich enough to ride your hobby." 

They sat for a moment. Then Hewlish 
asked, "Shall I program a drink?" 

"Not for me, thanks. You're not drinking, 

"I don't like robot bartenders. The cus- 
tomer has nothing to say. I developed a 
bartender that was viable along six cate- 
gories; but the chief ordered the brain for 
a political unit." 

They continued to sit. At last Hewlish 
came to life. "There she is! No — there's 
something different — " 

Captain Mack glanced at the satin- 
gowned blonde who was approaching the 
refreshment area, gracefully fending off 
dance bids. He said, "That's Sibyl." 

"Have you met both girls?" 

"Seen 'em, not met 'em. On my last transit, 
before I retired from the starship service. 
They like to hunt in space. Spearing fish in 
a barrel, that's what it is." 

Sibyl approached their table. Both men 
rose. She smiled. "Captain Mack? And this 
must be Hewlish. Are you waiting for Rox- 

anne?" she asked pleasantly. 

The three sat down and Sibyl continued, 
"Roxanne wouldn't come. She says she has 
to get up early and sail. Ridiculous, don't 
you think?" 

Captain Mack growled, "So you're hunt- 
ing alone." 

Sibyl shrugged languidly. "I ought to be. 
It's no fun without Roxanne. I'm rather sad. 
really. Twins sometimes are only half-peo- 
ple when they're alone." 

"You and Roxanne will have to take sep- 
arate paths when you mate," Hewlish said 
by way of rejoinder. 

"Oh, I never think of it. Roxanne keeps 
reminding me. I'm bored with hunting, but 
I really don't want a change." 

'A change from what? What are you?" 
Hewlish asked. 

"I don't know. What are you — I mean, 
when you're not sailing?" 

"My job is to develop increasingly com- 
plicated robots. I sail to use my human 
muscles and skills — to know uncertainty, 
decisions, fatigue," 

"What horrid things to know! And you 
must be very clever otherwise, making ro- 
bots. You make me feel so stupid. Memo- 
rizing all those category responses!" 

"Galactic knowledge now encompass- 

es several classes of what, for all practical 
purposes, ate infinities. No single master 
computer can do the sorting and reas- 
signing. The human brain is still the most 
economical computer. The least it can do 
is the preliminary indexing. What's so dif- 
ficult about responding to Animal, Vege- 
table, Mineral?" 

"Because I never can remember how to 
program for fish or birds, or flyovers or hats, 
or why air, water, and transportation are 

"The logic is very sound Is air Animal? 
Or Vegetable?" 

"But I'm not logical." 

"Of course you arel Every human being 
is logical." 

"Oh, dear me, Hewlish, nol" Sibyl 
laughed, in light musical tones that charmed 
him more than her gown. "I loathe boats 
and robots, yet I'm amusing myself with a 
sailing captain and an expert robotist." 

"Would you like to dance?" Hewlish sug- 

"Oh. yes, if you'd be so kind. Just one 
dance, before I return to Roxanne." 

The couple rose and joined the dancers 
waiting for the next configuration. 

"Young fool!" Captain Mack muttered. 
"That's the last I'll see of him tonight." 

But Hewlish returned alone after the 
configuration. He said, "Her helix cab was 
on standby at the flyover platform." 

"You didn't ask her to pair?" 

"Well, no, I couldn't, somehow. She was 
gracious, but not interested. That is, when 
we were dancing, I thought she was inter- 
ested—and then I decided she wasn't— 
and then I just wanted time to stop be- 
cause she was so lovely — and her voice 
was like music. She's — " 

"Bewitching," Captain Mack completed 
the thought. He stood up. "I've made my 
appearance. I can go back to the tower 
and shed these confounded ceremonials." 

Hewlish rose also. Captain Mack said, 
"Plenty of girls— ready, willing, and able." 

"Yes, but Sibyl makes the whole routine 
seem — routine." 

When Captain Mack and Hewlish ar- 
rived at the Terran Hope the next morning, 
Roxanne was waiting in the cockpit. She 
was wearing a black jacket, thick black 
gloves, black waterproof trousers and 
boots, and a close-fitting black cap. 

"Do we sail the circle?" she asked. 

"Today's race is to be from buoy to buoy 
through the channels," said Captain Mack, 
tightening the jibstay. "We'll take a look at 

the course. It's always wise." 

Roxanne watched them rig the sails, 
which fluttered and whipped in the breeze. 

"Back sail! Cast off!" 

Hewlish jumped to the pier, released the 
bowline, and jumped back, giving the boat 
a vigorous shove Captain Mack continued 
to warp the boat out of the slot with the boat 
hook. When she was clear, they hauled the 
sails over, she caught the wind, and the 
hull pivoted against the rudder. 

"How marvelous!" Roxanne squealed. 
"No power unit needed at all!" 

"The wind is power," Hewlish said. "Hu- 
man muscles are power." 

The Hope glided on even keel. In the 
narrow channels the breeze shifted, died, 
gusted again, and the boat tacked one way 
and then another. 

Roxanne said critically to Hewlish, who 
was hauling the jib, "I perceive you sail by 
the rule book, not by the boat." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Always at the same moment you follow 
the mainsail. You don't feel what the boat 
wants to do." 

"You think you know better than I do?" 

"I think I sense the boat better." 

"We won without you yesterday." 

"You were sailing an open circle. In a 
channel the wind comes trickily. Give me 
the rope." 

Captain Mack warned, "The boat is too 
light with only three aboard. She'll heel over 
when the wind freshens." 

"Not completely over," Roxanne an- 
swered. "I observed during the race yes- 
terday that, when the sails lay over, the wind 
spilled out and the boat righted." 

Roxanne took the line in her gloved 
hands. Whether it was a new breeze or a 
quicker response, the Hope glided more 

After the last channel, when they were 
proceeding across the open sea, the ris- 
ing wind came strongly and pulled the sail 
away from Roxanne. 

"On the rail!" roared Captain Mack. 

Hewlish took hold of the jib line, close- 
hauled the sail, and jumped to join Rox- 
anne, who was clinging for dear life to the 
tilted rail. 

"How exciting!" she chirped. "Much 
better than hunting!' 

The lower rail plowing a furrow of foam, 
they flew over the water and gained the 
lee of the mooring basin. 

"Oh, I'm drenched!" Roxanne com- 
plained, cajoling attention. "And salt stung 
and sun inflamed! But I've never been 

happier." She sprang to the pier "Thank 
you, Captain Mack. Remember what I told 
you, Hewlish." 

She ran joyfully away. 

Hewlish said to the skipper. "The nerve 
of her! She can't really handle a jib." 

"Naturally— she lacked muscle power." 

"I mean, in the channel. It was just be- 
ginner's luck." 

"She seems to have an intuition about 

"But sailing has definite physical laws." 

"So has singing or playing an instru- 
ment, you know." 

"Captain, are you saying the girl sails 
better than I do?" 

"No, Hewlish Calm down, man." 

"Roxanne's too slow changing tack. She 
continually plays the sail." 

"Yes. Forget it." 

"Do you want to replace me as jibman?" 

"No, what's the matter with you?" 

"Well, the boat did sail better. Maybe just 
the weight distribution when she moved 
forward to take the jib — " 

"Will you forget it? We've got a big race 
this afternoon." 

"Sure, sure. It's just — well — " 

Thai afternoon Sibyl and Roxanne sank 
onto their cushions and programmed the 
channel regatta. Roxanne said. "Sibyl, you 
must be ready to dress and helix to the 
mooring basin. After the race Hewlish will 
need consolation." 

"You're certain they'll lose?" 

"Thanks to my newly discovered sailing 
talent, yes. I've shaken Hewlish's confi- 
dence — and Captain Mack's confidence 
in him. At crucial moments they'll hesitate. 
That's the time for you to move in." 

"He may turn to Captain Mack instead 
of to me." 

"I'll come with you and divert Captain 

"Even so" — Sibyl looked sulky — "Hew- 
lish isn't real prey." 

"To me, Hewlish seemed stubborn and 

"You upset and contused him." 

"I set him up for you. Don't you want to 
console him?" 

"I suppose I do. I don't want him to lose 
the final race tomorrow." 

"Then come and watch the results of my 
handiwork today. I've never known you to 
be so difficult." 

The Terran Hope made a good start in 
the race but somehow lost her speed. She 

fell off on the tacks and was sluggish around 
the buoys, and her flying dash to the finish 
pulled her only to a third place. 

Hewlish was crestfallen and would not 
follow the rest of the crew, ashore. 

Captain Mack said. "Don't take it so hard. 
With a first and a third, we're still leading, 
Tomorrow we'll win." 

"It's the circle again. True, I'm more used 
to the circle." 

"Of course you are. Come ashore— to 
the casino, perhaps." 

They secured the gear, adjusted the 
mooring lines, and stepped ashore. 

Two familiar sun-cloaked figures greeted 
them. "Ah. Captain Mack." said Roxanne, 
"now you must walk the gardens with me 
and explain the race in detail. I shall scold 
you properly for losing the current at the 
second buoy," 

"They set the buoy in the riptide. Whether 
from ignorace or devilment," said Captain 
Mack, "we'd better not inquire, "and he fol- 
lowed Roxanne. 

Hewlish said to Sibyl. "May I escort you 
to your helix, or will you follow your sister?" 

"Neither. I don't know what to do." 

"About what?" 

"Roxanne. She's so mischievous." 

"Mischievous, indeed! I wish she had 
never come aboard. Let. me tell you — " 

Sibyl glanced around uncertainly "Must 
we talk standing here?" 

"No — that is — may I escort you to the 

"Oh, yes. You must be hungry after the 
long sail." 

"I'm disgusted with myself. 1 don't want 
to look at food right now." 

"You'll have to, in the pavilion. Besides, 
you'll have to program for me. Food cate- 
gories bewilder me." 

They crossed a flower- bordered lawn and 
entered the pavilion. The robot maitre 
d'hbtel Hipped the number 33, and the 
number over a corresponding table lit up. 

"Oh, I'd prefer a window table," Sibyl said. 

"The robot is programmed for the con- 
venience of the serving wagons." 

"Let's step aside then. Others can take 
the middle tables '" 

Hewlish looked curiously at Sibyl. "Do 
you often circumvent robots?" 

"Doesn't everyone? Step aside and let 
this other couple have the table." 

Hewlish stepped aside. One after an- 
other, he bowed four couples ahead of 
them, until a window table lit up and Sibyl 
swept triumphantly past the glistening ro- 
bot maitre d'hbtel. 

As they sealed themselves, Sibyl said. 
"Program for me. dear Hewlish." 

"Sibyl, the food categories are simple. 
Breakfast, Lunch, Tea. Dinner ." He reached 
to the center of the table and turned the 
order unit toward them. "Which would you 

"Tea— but I want pancakes." 

"Pancakes are a Breakfast category." 

"No. Breakfast pancakes have syrup. I 
want pancakes with jam." 

"With Tea you can have waffles with jam." 

"But I want pancakes Sometimes Rox- 
anne and I program both Breakfast and 
Tea. and I use her jam pot with my pan- 
cakes. But she really doesn't like my syrup 
on her waffles." 

"Discard the watfles and syrup." 

"Well. yes. but food wasting is the worst 
crime in the galaxy. I'd be arrested if I left 
food in a public place." 

'Are you hinting that I should eat the waf- 
fles and syrup?" 

"Would you. dear Hewlish?" 

"No, I would not. What a selfish ques- 
tion! I don't understand why men endow 
you with riches." 

"Neither do I. But I did hope you'd en- 
dow me with pancakes. You said you de- 
sign the robots." 

"Yes — which is why I can't see how you 
acquired a taste for an unprogrammed 

"Oh. but Roxanne and I had parents! 
Parents make all the difference. The four 
of us could program for six dishes and di- 
vide and share and combine as we wished, 
and not a morsel was wasted." 

"Was your mother as giddy as you?" 

"Oh, yes. Papa said that coming home 
was like stepping onto a carousel. He never 
understood why Roxanne and I left home 
to seek adventure, but Mama wished us 
good hunting." 

"Will you ever say something amusing 
to me. Sibyl?" 

"Not while I'm hungry." 

"I veto the pancakes. Choose a viable 

"You choose first." 

Hewlish programmed firmly, "Dinner. 
Meat— steak. Vegetable— potato crisps. 
Vegetable— mixed salad. Beverage— cof- 
fee. Now serve." 

He looked inquiringly at Sibyl. She said, 
"The steaks are always small. You didn't 
program a dessert You really could eat a 
dessert, don't you think." 

"Like watfles and syrup?" 

She smiled a slow, dazzling smile. "It 

would make me so very happy," she said. 

He then programmed the pancakes and 
the waffles. 

He scarcely tasted his dinner, so be- 
witched was he by her childish glee over 
the pancakes and jam. Before he realized 
how hungry he had been, the steak was 
gulped down, and the waffles followed just 
as quickly. 

"I'm glad you suggested the pavilion." 
he said. "I feel much better." 

Sibyl smiled to herself. "What else shall 
I suggest?" 

"We could dance more than one dance 
at tonight's ball, though f would have to 
leave early. Tomorrow — " He stopped as if 
an electric shock had gone through him. 
"I forgot. The race — the defeat— every- 
thing. I forgot!" 

"It's well forgotten. The defeat was my 
sister's doing." 

"Captain Mack would rather have her 
handling the jib." 

"I daresay he would. And she'd put him 
on the rocks fast enough. How could you 
let such mischief destroy your self-confi- 
dence? Forget today." 

"I can never forget it." 

"But. dear Hewlish. you just forgot it 

"That was only because you were here — 
because you — " He paused. "Do you al- 
ways keep the carousel turning?" 

"It's fun, isn't it? Why slop it? When shall 
we meet at the ball tonight?" 

'Just to dance?" 

"What else does one do at a ball?" 

"One pairs. If you're a huntress, you must 

"But I'm not hunting. Shall we meet at 
the same refreshment table, aboul nine 

"Eight o'clock." 

"Very well. Now you may see me to my 

Meanwhile Roxanne had been at the Sail 
Club with Captain Mack, scanning racks 
of cassettes. 

"The whole sail theory, if you're inter- 
ested," he said gruffly. 

"I am. Such a vast array makes me (eel 
very ignorant. I was impertinent to poor 
Hewlish today." 

"Yes. Upset him considerably, Hope he 
settles down tomorrow." 

"Oh, he'll regain his confidence by then." 
Roxanne looked at the racks. "Sailing is a 
weighty matter." 

"Do you read?" 

"Yes. I was lucky in my schooling. My 
parents believed reading was a good 
mental discipline." 

"In that case I can lend you a book that 
will be much less burden than cassettes 
on the same matter. But I'm keeping you 
late. Will you dine with me?" 

"Yes, thank you. But only a brief meal. 
I'm eager to begin reading." 

"Excuse me. You'll take good care of the 
book, won't you? Books are expensive and 
hard lo replace. From observing you on my 
last space cruise, I did not suppose you 
even knew the alphabet." 

Roxanne laughed. "Did you observe us? 
Sibyl and I were quite awed by your au- 
thority. It's nice to find you human." 

"If I may say so. Roxanne, you're far more 
likable when you're not hunting." 

"I enjoy being myself. How and when did 
it happen that literacy became the oppo- 
site of pleasure?" 

"The perfection of voice programming 
and cassettes, I suppose, made literacy 
unnecessary to the lazy mind — and most 
human beings are lazy. Fortunately. If sail- 
ing were easy, the sport would be clut- 
tered by robot minders and button push- 
ers, as it was in the Early Atomic Age, when 
modern civilization began. 

"But you'll find the history of the Sail Re- 
form Movement in the book." he went on. 
"A fair breeze and human brain and mus- 
cle — there's the real sport." 

"It's all very exciting," Roxanne agreed. 

When Sibyl returned from the ball at 
midnight, Roxanne was reading Captain 
Mack's book. 

"You're taking great pains for my sake," 
said Sibyl. 

"Captain Mack is no fool. By tomorrow 
my homework must be thoroughly done." 

"You underestimate my own powers with 

"Never You danced closely, I assume. 
He was dizzied by your touch, your per- 
fume, your inconsequential, hypnotic chat- 
ter. Did you pair?" 

"I think Hewlish is worth more than pair- 
ing. It would be fun to direct an inventive 

"Why. Sibyl! Would you mate with him?" 

"I don't know. It would be so permanent. 
He's so serious. He'd never leave me while 
the offspring were young." 

'An advantage, surely? Nursery robots 
are tiresome. Remember ours? Papa and 
Mama were very useful." 

Sibyl sighed. "But 1 do love luxury. How 

much would you let me take, Roxanne? Your 
jewels are grander than mine." 

"Now here's a sisterly act. You leave me 
hunting alone and empty my jewel cases 
as well." 

"Yes. And when you mate with a rich oli- 
garch, I shall expect magnificent presents. 
Our parents endowed us unequally with 
brains, and it's only fair that your abun- 
dance should make up for my lack." 

Roxanne laughed and returned to read- 
ing the book. 

The third and final race was the closest 
of all, The other boats, with few chances 
of winning the regatta, determined to spoil 
the day for the Terran Hope. Soon the pro- 
test flag was straining from her mast top 
as foul after foul blocked her progress. 

Sibyl and Roxanne were watching the 
race on the viewscreen. 

"How unfair!" said Sibyl. "A protest does 
no good from a tenth place." 

"But the fouls only increase the crew's 
angry efforts." 

"How do you know?" 

"I know." 

Never before had the Terran Hope been 
so tightly hauled. Never had she sailed so 
close to the wind. Her opponents fell off to 
leeward, and she outsailed them easily. 
racing between the orange finish buoys with 
a clear victory. 

"They've won! Come, Sibyl," Roxanne 
said, standing up. "Now we can claim our 

Our? Sibyl wondered. 

This time the Terran Hope was not so 
easily approached. The pier was crowded 
with well-wishers, regatta committeemen. 
and Trivec officials who had come to offer 
the formal challenge. 

Sibyl and Roxanne waited until the cer- 
emonies were completed and the crowd 
was thinning. Hewlish saw them and went 
up to them. They congratulated him, and 
Roxanne strolled toward the boat. 

Hewlish said to Sibyl, "Roxanne must feel 
foolish, doubting my abilities." 

"We both are pleased you won. But the 
victory has agitated you. I doubt that un- 
certainty, decisions, and fatigue are as 
pleasant as you boasted." 

"They're pleasant to experience and 
overcome. The reliving of ihem is unpleas- 
ant — the thought of how near we came to 
failure. That's why I'm glad to see you, Si- 
byl. With you. I can remember the victory 
and forget the anxiety." 

"Victory soon erases anxiety. Will you 

dance with me at tonight's ball, please?" 

"Will you pair afterward?" 

"Hewlish, I like you too much. I don't want 
to pair with you as I'd pair with prey. You're 
too fine and honest. I wish the holiday could 
goon forever." 

"It can — as long as our nonsensical car- 
ousel keeps turning. Will you mate with me? 
I have little wealth, but you'd share it equally, 
such as it is." 

"Oh. I accept you, dear Hewlish! I'm sorry 
you're not yet rich, but I'll never find a mate 
more clever or sensible." 

Hewlish put his arms around her, pulled 
off her sunhood, kissed her smooth lips 
and laid his cheek against her glossy hair. 

She gently freed herself. "We must dine 
and dress for the victory ball." 

"A victory within and beyond a victory!" 
Hewlish exulted. 

Roxanne had been talking to Captain 
Mack. They saw Hewlish embrace Sibyl. 
and the skipper scowled. "She caught him. 
I knew it. Poor fool!" 

"I fear it's Sibyl who's caught," said Rox- 
anne. "She spoke of wanting to mate with 
him. Not a brilliant match, but she was bored 
and restless. What was I to do?" 

"Is Hewlish your doing?" 

"I chose him, yes. Sibyl never has had 
my zest for the chase. Her nature is softer, 
more attuned to mating. I'll miss her dread- 
fully, of course." 

"You made a good team, that's for sure. 
The old one-two," Captain Mack said with 
gusto. "A man never knew whether he was 
coming or going. You'll need a change of 
pace, Roxanne." 

"Later. When I start hunting again. Now 
I'm fascinated by sailing." 

"Don't hand me that sludge, girl. I'm not 

"Exactly. Hewlish crewed for the Terran 
Hope. You own her. I'm studying your book. 
I hope you'll find a crew place for me if I 
follow you to Trivector." 

"Hmm. You are not nearly strong enough 
to be a jibman." 

"Skill is needed more in the light, shifting 
breezes than in the steady winds. I could 
be jibman when it pleased you, and rail 
crew at other times." 

"I demand concentration in the regattas. 
You'd have to give up hunting." 

"How could I hunt? When I sail, my face 
will be sun reddened and ugly, my hands 
will bruise, my arm muscles will enlarge 
into unsightly lumps. A ruined huntress, I 
fear. But the Trivector race — oh, I would 
give up much — everything — to win aboard 

the Terran Hope, I promise I would." 

'And then?" 

"I don't know. Why do you ask?" 

"Because I'm a lonely man. I never mated 
when I was in the starship service, be- 
cause I would seldom have seen my mate 
or offspring. I didn't mate when I retired, 
because I met no woman who shared my 
passion for the sea." He paused. "Can a 
huntress understand thai a man might have 
a passion for anything except— passion?" 

"A huntress, of all people, knows that a 
man's passion is but an inner room of his 
heart. It must be approached by the right 
avenue, and there are as many avenues 
as there are men. Which is the fun of the 
hunt " 

"I'll grant you all that. Roxanne, but we 
are still talking about two different things. 
Your hunt ends in a mutual passion for each 
other. My yearnings have been toward a 
mutual passion for the sea." 

'And for each other." Roxanne insisted 

"Yes, yes, of course," the captain agreed, 
"but my nature is such that I cannot sep- 
arate the two." 

"I think the sea is such a mistress," said 
Roxanne. "that she floods a man's heart 
and must be included." 

"I perceive clearly that she has flooded 
your heart. Roxanne. I'm fairly well off," he 
went on. "I won't pair with you, wily Rox- 
anne. because you'd rob me and walk away. 
But mating is a legal and permanent com- 
mitment. You couldn't rob me without rob- 
bing yourself." 

"I've never robbed anyone, Captain 

'As if bewitchment wasn't robbery of a 
man's senses and, afterward, of every- 
thing else he possessed!" 

"Now here's an odd proposal," Roxanne 
retorted. "The man distrusts me and yet 
would mate with me." 

"I don't distrust your sailing. That's gen- 
uine enough to make young Hewlish green 
with envy. Nor do I distrust your ability to 
keep a mate amused, if you kept your part 
of the bargain." 

"I've never broken faith, either." 

"Perhaps you think I'm too old for mat- 
ing, but I'm capable of it, never doubt!" 

"Never for a second would I doubt," said 
Roxanne. laying her hand on the captain's 
sleeve. "I'm happy and honored to accept 
your offer. You'll be a handsome mate and 
a wonderful sire for our offspring." 

"Lucky little bastards," said Captain 
Mack, grinning. 

Benevolent technology, 

progress and prosperity forever, 

aggression and greed 

almost gone — ah, that was the rub 



Eli Blair shuffled uneasily around the room, 
hands thrust deep in his pockets. The wind 
shrieked aboul the house like a hare under an 
eagle's shadow. 

"Build in four dimensions?" Ihe angellike boy, 
Zodiac, had chortled earlier thai day. "Easy. How 
do you design a cube?" 

"I wouldn't bother," said Eli, nonchalantly. "If il was 
a perfect cube, I would just go ahead and make it." 

"Don't get ahead of yourself." the boy cut in. "I 
said 'design' for a reason. A cube is three dimen- 
sions, which you can represent on a two-dimen- 
sional surface . . ." 

"You mean three dimensions on two, and tour on 
three?" The old man scratched his head. "No, it 
can't be as simple as that. . . ." 

The boy looked at him unblinkingly. "You're not 
going to tell me it's impossible, are you? Or that 
somebody must have thought of it already?" He 
shook his head, the golden hair catching the dying 
autumn sun. "They all say that until someone else 
patents the invention of a lifetime." 

Eli looked sharply at the boy. then picked up a 
sheet of paper, tearing and folding it to form a rough 
cube. Twisting it this way and that, he smiled rue- 
fully. "Paper's no good." 

"Correct.' 1 


The old man strode to the bookshelf and 
returned with a glass paperweight. He 
lipped it from hand to hand, and shook his 
head. It told him nothing. 

"Getting warmer. Eli," said the boy, en- 

Eli glared, but inside he was warm with 
admiration. "Why don't you tell me, you 
young imp!" 

"That wouldn't be so much tun." Zo- 
diac's eyes sparkled. "I'll give you a clue." 
he relented, closing his eyes and quoting: 

Far from the edge of the land. 
There lies a-shifting a place 
In the deep's hand . . . 

His guardian raised an eyebrow. "When 
did you siart learning Zarradine?" 

"Ages ago. Last week, I think." 

"I'm surprised, But I suppose I shouldn't 
be." Eli shrugged. "Anyway, that's an easy 
clue," He turned to the window, to a tank 
of water wherein there lay motionless a small 
gray fish. A black dot of an eye swiveled 
at his approach, and when the old man's 
hands touched the glass the fish sprang 
suddenly and ferociously into lite, its small, 
needle fangs tapping sharply against the 
glass. Eli carried the tank to the sink and, 
in one swift movement, whipped off the 
cover, emptied out the contents, and cov- 
ered the sink with a glass sheet. He held 
the tank over the dryer for a moment, and 
when he turned back to the boy. there were 
a few beads of sweat on his torehead. "I 
swear he'll have me one day," he grinned, 
"but I haven't the heart to have his glands 
removed. Now," he said matter-of-factly, 
"the third cube. What do I do with it?" 

'A diagram," said Zodiac simply, "a four- 
dimensional representation on a three-di- 
mensional surface." 

Eli sighed quietly. He shouldn't allow 
himself to be drawn in like this. He could 
leach the boy howio behave, but academ- 
ically . , . "No more games," he said firmly, 
selecting a clay pencil from the desk drawer. 
"Show me." 

Zodiac folded his arms, refusing the 
pencil. "You can't draw on the glass. It's a 
surface, and a surface has only two di- 
mensions. It's what's inside, the volume, 
that is three-dimensional," He padded 
lightly to the cupboard and returned with 
thread and cutter. 

For the next few minutes, the room was 
silent save for the quiet hum of the cutter 
and the occasional plop! from the sink. At 
last. Zodiac stood back, satisfied. 

Eli studied the result, more struck with 
its artistic merits than any mathematical 
significance. "It's clever, but Where's the 
fourth dimension?" 

"It's not in there." said the boy. "That 
wasn't the object of the exercise. This is 
just a design, a blueprint." 

Eli shook his head, sitting down heavily 
"Well, I'm blowed! And is this what you've 
been doing at school today?" 

Zodiac looked away. "Well, no, not as an 
assignment, not exactly." 

"What do you mean, not exactly?" The 
old man touched his ward on the shoul- 
ders. "You haven't skipped school?" 

"Nor cried the boy indignantly. "When 
I said not exactly. I meant the others were 
doing the industrial counterrevolution." 

"I see. Now listen to me," said Eli, wag- 
ging a gnarled finger. "I pay good pension 
and guardianship money to send you to a 
tree school, and you . . ." 

"Hold on a minute, Eli," said Zodiac, his 
voice belying his childish looks. "You said 
you were sending me to the free school so 
I could be an individual, like you, and so I 
am. You can't deny that." He shrugged, "I 
can learn the industrial counterrevolution 
any time — I took a video of the lesson- 
but this dimension problem is on my mind, 
and it's now work. History is later work. 
Don't worry, Eli, 1 won't let you down come 
end-of-term exams. You know I won't." 

"Okay, okay." Eli held up his hands. "I 
don't need a lecture. I know it's not up to 
me what you study, but it's just that I want 
you to stick to what you start. Then you 
won't end up like I did. a drifter for the first 
few years of my maturity. I had a terrible 
job sorting myself out." 

"But you did in the end If I achieve as 
much as you did, Eli, I'll be satisfied." 

Eli winced melodramatically. "If you don't 
achieve at least five times as much as 1 
did, I'll take a stick to you." They both 
laughed, not because they knew he never 
would do such a thing, but because it was 
an affirmation of confidence, and it made 
them both happy. 

They left the glass-and-thread blueprint 
on the desk and sat down at the small ta- 
ble, "I've a surprise for you," said Eli, open- 
ing a drawer in front of him and taking out 
a small package. He shoved it across to- 
gether with the boy's two sachets. 

"What is it?" asked Zodiac, tearing the 
paper to expose a pinkish, pasty material. 


"Pate!" Carefully, the boy dipped a lin- 
ger into it and raised it to his mouth. His 

eyes widened. "Real pate?" Most of it dis- 
appeared down his throat in a second. 

"Steady!" warned his guardian. "You 
shouldn't have eaten all that. You know too 
much fresh food will make you ill." 

"I couldn't help it. It was delicious." 

"Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't 
suppose it'll hurt you — can't have been 
more than ten grams." 

Zodiac licked his fingers for the third time 
time. "Can I give the rest to Willy?" 

"Yes, but be careful. He prefers fingers." 

The boy slid the glass cover on the sink 
aside a fraction and dropped in the last 
lump of pate. It didn't touch the water. The 
fish gulped once and returned to the bot- 
tom. Zodiac shuddered involuntarily, re- 
placed the cover, and returned to the ta- 
ble. "Why do you still keep him if he's so 
dangerous? It's a rather one-sided rela- 
tionship, isn't it?" 

Eli leaned back in his chair. "Did I never 
tell you?" 

The boy sat down opposite him and 
leaned torward eagerly. 

The old man closed his eyes. "When I 
was young, when there were still ships on 
the sea, I worked in a freighter carrying 
everything from fabrics to ore from Eng- 
land to North America. On the ship as well 
was a young, rough-edged Australasian, 
called Aubrey Jones, and he and I be- 
came the greatest of buddies. We had a 
great time, the two of us. raising hell in the 
ports with brawling and drinking, and 
suchlike. We were tour days out of Liver- 
pool when the war came, and we sat there 
in mid-ocean, waiting, wondering. A week 
passed, nothing on the radio, tood sup- 
plies dwindling. You know your history. After 
sixteen days and nights of torment, hall the 
crew dead of tear, hunger, or suicide, we 
heard it was over, so we sailed on to Bos- 
ton. We survivors got blind drunk that night, 
and I had quite a job getting us back to 
the ship. Anyway, I did. and we loaded up 
and headed for home. 

"Well, you could feel the tension on the 
ship all the way. Aubrey and I tossed all 
the drink we could find over the side. There 
was no skipper, just a weird, democratic, 
vagabond crew, and how we ever made 
Liverpool I still don't know to this day. But 
we did. And the first thing we did was to 
collect our pay and look for the nearest 
bar. Well, as you know we shouldn't have 
found one. because it was the New Way, 
but we did, a little illegal tavern on a back 

"It was the last night of the century. We 

hadn't realized it until wed already downed 
a few, and of course we were determined 
to celebrate, if no one else did. But it mis- 
fired, disastrously. Aubrey managed to get 
into a light and killed a man. It cured me. - 
because I left the ships and got a decent 
job. And it cured Aubrey, too. because they 
sent him to the moon. 

"Forty years he got, and forty years he 
served. He used to write to me regularly, 
and a week after his release I heard he'd 
been sent back to Australasia, to work for 
the Fisheries Protection Board. After that 
he didn't write to me so often. Inevitable, I 
suppose, but we never lost contact alto- 
gether. We always said we'd meet again, 
but somehow we were always too busy. 
Then in 51, 1 got a letter from his employ- 
ers. He'd been badly mauled by a shark 
while trying to save a girl from drowning. 
There was a little note from him enclosed, 
and I remember it word for word. It said: 
Dear Trusted Friend Eli. I took on a shark 
the other day, but my reflexes aren't what 
they were when we were young. Only fight 
I've ever lost, but it's the last. Never mind, 
I've had a good run, and they tell me the 
little girl's going to be all right, thank God. 
I want you to have all my bits to do what 
you like with. Please look after Willy tor me. 
He's a mean bugger, but good company. 
I'd swear he understands more than he lets 
on. Can't write any more, old friend Take 
care. So long. Aubrey." Eli sighed deeply. 

"So, wondering who or what on Earth 
Willy was. I took a weekend return fo Mel- 
bourne and collected Aubrey's stuff— and 
Willy. His landlady told me rather sharply: 
Glad to see the back of the brute. Then 
she melted and there were tears in her eyes. 
He was a helluva man, Mr. Blair, she said. 
an' a damn shame he's gone. She gave 
me the written instructions Aubrey had 
given her for when he was at sea. They 
were very simple and typical of the sense 
of humor that never left htm, not even while 
he was in prison. They said: 'Willy eats 
anything, 'specially fresh meat. Particu- 
larly partial to humans. One bite is fatal — 
to the human.' 

"I seriously considered tipping dear Willy 
straight into the nearest furnace but kept 
thinking of Aubrey, so I relented and brought 
the beast home. He never took his eyes 
(ram me all the way. Customs was a bit 
lunny. bul I called a friend in London and 
he got me a license. It was only then I dis- 
covered Willy's true identity. He was ex- 
tremely rare and worth a small fortune. Au- 
brey must have known that, and it was his 

way of thanking me for sticking by him all 
those years. I should have sold him there 
and then, but once I'd turned down the first 
offer, the next was easier. And the brute 
looked at me all the time, at first sort of 
suspicious, but then I swear it was a se- 
cure look, knowing, somehow. I'll never 
know how I came to grow fond of such a 
creature, but I did." 

Eli opened his eyes. "Eat your food," he 
ordered quietly. Then he closed them again. 
'Anyway, I've had Willy for ten years now, 
and I reckon he'll outlive me. He's used to 
my ways, and me his. I know what he likes — 
sunshine, duck, hard-boiled eggs. I wouldn't 
part with him now. I've got an antidote for 
his poison, but I don't think I'll ever need 
it. I've always been uliracareful. and so have 
my wards." 

Zodiac split a sachet between finger and 
thumb and poured the contents down his 
throat. "Sometimes I wish." he said slowly. 
"I was an Old Individual. I'd like to have 
been a guardian, like you. Will you have 
another ward when I'm dead?" 

Eli frowned. "Don't talk like that. First of 
all, the New Individual^. are the lulure, and 
second, I don't like you talking about -your 
own death. You're only eight months old 
now. with another 20 to go. and it's not as 

if your life seems any shorter than mine. . . ." 
"I'm sorry," interrupted the boy. "I know 

what you say is true. I'm not thinking of the 
comparative lengths of our lives, just our 
lifestyle. I'm enjoying my life, of course I 
am. The New Way is better than the Old, 
but in this changeover period I think the 
guardians have a more satislying task than 
the wards." 

Eli nodded slowly. "That may be so, but 
the New Way is better, and that's all that 
matters to any of us. There'll come a time 
when I'm just a housekeeper to you — I 
know, I've seen it four times already — a time 
when you're so far ahead that I'll be the 
child and you the adult. Give it a few more 
months and you'll be happy with your side 
of the bargain." 

"Nonsense!" said Zodiac sharply, toss- 
ing his golden hair. "You'll always be able 
to teach me something. You have the mor- 
als, the knowledge, and the honesty. I only 
hope we'll be able to retain it when all the 
guardians are gone." 

"You will, boy, you will. Don't you worry. 
It's more than ever a technological world, 
but it's good technology. Benevolent tech- 
nology. The New Way will inherit the best 
of the Old — the wisdom, the intellect, the 
induslriousness. Humanity will progress 

and prosper forever, now that aggression 
and greed have almost gone. If ironing oul 
the horrors in man's nature means a shorter 
lifespan, ihough a no less full one, so be 
it. The New Way is good." Eli's eyes bored 
into the boy's. "It's more than good. It's 
beautiful, it's perfect." He glanced up at 
the clock. "And now . . ." 

"I know," sighed his ward, tor a moment 
the child again. He dutifully rose and 
cleared away the table. "Can I watch you 
catch Willy?" 

"No, I'm going to leave him there for to- 
night. I don't want to spoil our blueprint- 
perhaps we can talk about it again tomor- 
row." He held out his hands, and Zodiac 
took them. "Goodnight, young man. Sleep 

When the boy had gone to his room, Eli 
settled into a comfortable chair from where 
he could see the moon through the trees 
on the hill above the house. Clouds were 
gathering, and a light breeze tugged at the 
shutters. There would be a storm any min- 
ute, Eli knew, for he had not lived in the 
Cotswolds for ten years without knowing 
the weather patterns like an old friend. 

He felt tired. Every day was a long day 
with Zodiac. The boy only needed three 
hours' sleep now, and in a couple of months 
he would need none. Before Eli was barely 
asleep in his own bed, the boy would be 
up and gone, tiptoeing out to 18 hours of 
schooling. He was growing up fast, even 
for a ward, and it was hard to believe it was 
only seven months ago that Joseph Par- 
sons, Secretary of the Fellowship of 
Guardians, had brought him a one-month- 
old, golden-haired child who could hardly 
walk. Zodiac had cried because of Eli's 
whiskers, and Eli shaved them off there and 
then as a token of friendship. Two weeks 
later the boy was beating him at simple 
card games. Eli shrugged inwardly. Even 
after five baby wards, he still found it dif- 
ficult to come to terms with the incredible 
development rate and speeding metabo- 
lism of the new race. But he envied no man. 
Most Old ones, now in retirement, living out 
their lives in luxury in the cities, were al- 
most oblivious to the New Way taking over. 
Eli Blair had believed in it right from the 
start, right from the very first New child, 
and blessed the day when the aggressors 
had obliterated themselves from the face 
of the earth and left the rest of the world 
to scramble every way of life until they came 
up with the answer that was the New Way. 
Humanity had dragged itself back from the 
brink of oblivion and would never again pit 

itself against itself, or against Nature. And 
as soon as he was retired, Eli Blair devoted 
his every waking hour to make it work. It 
had to work, because now there were no 
destroyers, only builders. And the New 
children were the children of the builders. 

There was no particular point during his 
reverie that Eli Blair's thoughts became 
dreams. He had Iqng been accustomed to 
taking a half-hour nap before setting out 
the boy's meager (to him) breakfast and 
locking up the house, and he slipped eas- 
ily into the light sleep of advancing years, 
his feet stretched out, his hands loose in 
his lap. 

But when he awoke he knew it was not 
his mental alarm clock which had woken 
htm. He looked out of the window — the 
moon had scarcely moved, so he had been 
asleep only a few minutes. What had dis- 
turbed him. then? Everything was still, save 
the rising wind, and he was on the verge 
of drifting off when the disturbance reached 
him again. This time he knew too well what 
it was, and he lurched drunkenly out of the 
chair as the third agonized yell from the 
back of the house penetrated his brain. Eli 
flung open the door to see the boy writhing 
on the bed, clutching at his middle. His 
staring eyes saw nothing, and the golden 
hair was dark with sweat. 

The old man threw a blanket over him 
and fiercely punched out some numbers 
on the bedside comm. 

Immediately, there came a tinny voice: 

"Blair. two-five-nine-zero-G. Ambu- 
lance, my ward . . ." 

"Nature of emergency?" asked the un- 
emotional electronic voice. 

"I think it's food poisoning." 

"Patient's identification?" 

"Oh, for . . ." Eli wiped the sweat from 
his eyes. No use arguing. "Zodiac, seven- 

"Wait please ." 

The next four seconds seemed like four 
hours. Then the voice again: "Landing 
space — go. Availability— go. ETA two min- 
utes. Blair, do not give anything to patient. 
Keep patient warm. Keep calm. Confirm." 

"Confirmed." Eli cursed the machine as 
he dragged another blanket over the boy. 
Keep calm, it said! He cursed the pate. He 
cursed the peddler who had persuaded 
him to buy ft He cursed himself for his stu- 
pidity, and he soothed the boy's brow with 
water from the tap by the bed. 

The ambulance's siren blared from above 
the roof, and Eli rushed to the back door 

in time to see it settle gently in the yard, 
the whine of the engines just audible above 
the wind. Two figures jumped out, both 
barely bigger than Zodiac, but broader 
shouldered. They rushed where Eli di- 
rected them, swept the boy up in a stretcher, 
and were outside again before ten sec- 
onds were past. One of them, a girl, gasped, 
"Don't worry. Wait for our call," and the ma- 
chine was gone, up and away like a mon- 
strous flying egg, over the trees, to the 
nearest hospital specializing in the medi- 
cine of the New Way. 

Eli closed the door quietly and sat down 
in front of his desk comm. Now he had lime 
for the self-recrimination that had been 
building up since he had burst into Zo- 
diac's room just a few minutes before. For 
the next five minutes he set to the mental 
task of taking himself to pieces, under- 
standably but unnecessarily, and it was only 
the shrill tone of the comm which pre- 
vented him from driving himself insane. 

He stabbed open the channel. "Yes!" 

A calm, young voice came through, then 
the screen cleared. Eli saw the face of a 
boy, not unlike Zodiac, but older, perhaps 
a year old. "Mr. Blair, I'm Dr. Rosko. Zodiac 
is comfortable now, but I must tell you his 
condition is very grave. Food poisoning is 
confirmed. He ale some pate . . ." 

Eli nodded slowly. "I know it was my fault, 
I shouldn't have bought it." 

"Please. Mr. Blair, there is absolutely no 
blame attached to you. Zodiac is our sev- 
enth case today, and the peddler con- 
cerned has now been arrested. The pate 
was accredited fit for consumption by 
wards, but it seems the date had been 

"Oh, no!" Eli almost reeled back from 
the words. The old ways lingered on. You 
never knew when you might come across 
them, in a crowded street, in a back alley — 
there were still fragments of the old self- 
interest at large. Still people, ghastly night- 
mares of the past, who could, would, put 
personal gain before the well-being of the 
race. Eli Blair remembered the old ways, 
had been a part of them, but those 16 days 
of cold, unimaginable fear adrift in the North 
Atlantic had cured him for life It seemed 
there were still those whom it had not. Eli 
ached from the pain of it. "And Zodiac?" 
he said, hearing himself almost pleading. 

"Don't upset yourself, Mr. Blair. You must 
be distressed, I know, but your ward will 
receive the best possible care. We are doing 
everything we can." 

"I know. Thank you. Dr. Rosko. You will 

let me know how he's doing?" Without 
thinking, he added, desperately, "Is there 
any chance of me seeing him, any chance 
at all?" But he already knew the answer — 
knew he could never enter a ward estab- 
lishment of any kind, where things moved 
30 times faster than he knew, where the 
environment was as alien to him as the 
South Pole — more so. For it was only in the 
presence of the old ones, like himself, that 
the wards slowed themselves down. 
Amongst themselves they lived 30 times 
as quickly and got 30 times as much done 
in the same lime . . . 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Blair, you know it's not 
possible. You understand." 

Eli took hold of himself. "Of course, Doc- 
tor. I shouldn't have asked." 

"You are distraught. I suggest you take 
a sedative and go to bed. I will see to it 
you are called if there's any change." 

If there's any change. The words rang in 
Eli's head when the Doctor had signed off. 
He switched off the comm and stood up, 
looking around the room as if it were un- 
familiar to him. 

The night seemed interminable. To oc- 
cupy himself, Eli closed the shutters and 
locked up the house, swept out the bed- 
rooms, tidied his desk. And he was now 
reduced to shuffling back and forth across 
the cluttered room, listening to the shriek- 
ing wind mingling with his waking night- 
mare. Thoughts of the past clashed with 
dread of the future. He tried to shut out the 
picture of the smiling, golden-haired boy 
who eagerly wolfed down the pate, but it 
kept coming back. Guardianship might 
seem the best job on earth, he thought bit- 
terly, but here was the other side of the 
coin. He had never been married, but now 
for the first time he knew what it must have 
been like for the thousands of women who 
lost babies at the height of the industrial 
counterrevolution, when medical services 
ground to a hall for a whole year. How triv- 
ial it had all seemed to him then. How he 
now regretted the callousness of his youth. 
All these memories seemed so real that he 
hardly heard the comm shrilling. 

Eli opened the channel carefully, half ex- 
pecting . . .? But it was Dr. Rosko. 

"Mr. Blair," he said quietly, and Eli knew. 
He knew from the face. The New ones could 
not hide their emotions. 

"Mr. Blair, I'm sorry. Zodiac couldn't make 
it. He died a few minutes ago. We did what 
we could." 

Eli nodded "I know that." 

"Will you be all right?" 

"I'll be all right, Doctor. I'll ring you to- 
morrow about the arrangements." 

When the doctor's grave face had gone 
from the screen, Eli Blair felt as if he was 
about to be torn apart. His rational nature 
said the New Way was still the same. Things 
happen. His emotions were in turmoil. He 
staggered up out of his seat again, drained 
of energy, and wandered aimlessly about 
the room for a few minutes. Can I go through 
it again? The question demanded imme- 
diate answer. A two-year guardianship was 
short and painful enough, despite the cal- 
culated way it was cooled down toward the 
end of a ward's life, and Eli Blair was old. 
The New Way was perfect — he had said 
that earlier, but was it perfect for him? 
However the war had changed him, he 
would be a part of the old way until the day 
he died. Was it time to go now? Had enough 
of human nature been instilled into the 
frames of the New children yet? Could they 
be trusted to breed on their own now and 
not revert to the old ways? The New chil- 
dren did not cry. They did not get angry. 
Yet they loved with unbelievable strength 
of will. Would this be enough to carry them 
through to the promised future? Eli Blair 
did not know. The New Way seemed to 
crowd in on him, and he felt his age acutely. 
His role was ever-diminishing, The ambu- 
lance drivers, the doctor, the emergency 
robot, all New. Every day. less Old, more 
and more New. Eli knew one thing. He didn't 
want to be the last. He didn't want to live 
out the residue of his days like a dinosaur, 
a living relic of the past that was hateful 
and wasteful and best forgotten. 

Half-blinded by the pain in his head, Eli 
stumbled against the sink. There was no 
hesitation in the hand that slid the glass 
aside and fell slowly into the cool water. He 
steeled himself, closing his eyes. A sec- 
ond passed. "Go "on, you brute," he mut- 
tered, "you've been waiting for this chance 
for years." More seconds passed, but no 
pain came. He opened his eyes and looked 
down. Willy was listing slightly and had 
turned toward the hand that intruded. The 
small black eyes regarded Eli angrily, but 
he did not move. Every few seconds, his 
stout gray body twitched, and Eli suddenly 
came to his senses. The pate! Willy, too, 
had eaten the pate. And he was in agony, 
dying. Eli yanked a yard of traveling cable 
from its wall housing and turned on the 
power. A quick jab at the surface of the 
water was enough. Willy would suffer no 
more. Eli Blair went and sat at his desk. 

The brief episode with the fish affected 
him deeply. Somehow it brought back the 
world he had almost discarded in his grief. 
He might laugh about the miracle later. But 
now there was something to do. Dying was 
too easy — killing Willy had made him re- 
alize it. Dying was not the New Way, 

A few taps on the keyboard brought a 
face on the screen An Old face Joseph 
Parsons had not changed in seven months. 
"Hello, Eli," he said. "I've been waiting for 
you to call. The registrar at the hospital 
called me a while ago. You know how sorry 
I am." 

Eli was lost for words for a moment. Then 
he said: "Thank you, Joseph. Look, I know 
this will sound harsh, but . . ." 

"Eli. don't torture yourself. Go to bed, and 
I'll be round with the papers tomorrow 

Eli Blair couldn't stop the wry smile. "You 
knew I'd call you, didn't you?" 

Joseph nodded wisely. "Of course I did. 
Once you've been a guardian, you can't 
shake it off. You've been a guardian five 
times. You ought to know by now . . ." 

"Yes," sighed Eli, "I suppose I ought." 

A beautiful, touching story, and at the same 
time earthy enough — think of the corrupt 
peddler tampering with an expiration date — 
and pate at that. But one must be careful 
in considering science fiction, careful not 
to substitute happy imaginings for the con- 
cern demanded by most-probable-case 

Is offering an optimistic, Utopian story 
such as this perhaps too dangerously pal- 
liative? Is it possible that mankind can sur- 
vive the next all-out war? Writers other than 
Holkham have imagined not—remember 
Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach. And if 
survival is possible, won't conditions be a 
lot more likely to duplicate those in Robert 
Silverberg's "The Palace at Midnight" (see 
page 56), where post-catastrophe society 
is Balkanized, blighted, and boring? 

However, a truly positive thought is en- 
gendered by Holkham's piece: If only 
mankind could radically change without first 
going to the brink of destruction or expe- 
riencing some horror such as Holkham's 
"industrial counterrevolution." Given the 
grim time we live in, the tact that we can 
speculate about such a bright future through 
the medium of stones like "New Is Beau- 
tiful" is one of the grand attributes of the 
science-fiction form — grander still if we 
would act in the spirit of Holkham's vision. 


asileus," the story that follows, 
was written especially for this volume . . . and in short order at that. 
Contacted at summer's end in California, where he was engrossed with 
the writing of a novel, Silverberg had "Basileus" in Omni's New York 
office by early fall. For such a prodigious writer (hundreds of stories and 
books) it is to be expected that he could work quickly and on several 
things at once, but what has long been equally astounding about the 
Silverberg method is the quality of writing that results — the scope of its 
imagination, the richness of its detail. 

The reader will no doubt be amazed at the extent of the arcane 
knowledge concerning heavenly hosts. It is not a knowledge Silverberg 
acquired quickly to fulfill a writing commission. Rather, he says, he has 
long been fascinated with esoteric subjects and even has written schol- 
arly volumes on medieval lore. That he combines this interest with a 
very timely concern about Armageddon makes for fascinating, fright- 
ening science fiction. 

"The Soul Painter and the Shapeshifter," reprinted from Omni, is a 
charming romance of another time and place. It involves two disparate 
beings who, notwithstanding their altogether awesome capabilities, are 
quite human in their needs, desires, sensibilities and frailties. The plot 
moves effortlessly and suspensefully, reminding us along the way that 
beauty is subjective, all-conquering, and the companion of love. 

One of Silverberg's bleaker visions prevails in "The Palace at Mid- 
night" a story set in California some years after a collapse of civilization. 
More specifically, it takes place in the Empire of San Francisco, for the 
United States is no longer an intact nation but a hodgepodge of tiny 
city-states, many of which are ruled by petty despots. Against this grim 
backdrop, the author adeptly stages an interlude of developing friend- 
ship between a man and a woman, which affords the reader a deepfelt 
awareness of the human condition amid widespread devastation and 
decadence. As the hero remarks, "Poor everybody." 

nd John the Bapti 



In the shimmering lemon-yellow Octo- 
ber light, Cunningham touches the keys of 
his terminal and summons angels. An in- 
stant to load the program, an instant to bring 
the file up. and there they are, ready to 
spout from the screen at his command: 
Apollyon, Anauel, Uriel, and all the rest. 
Uriel is the angel of thunder and terror; 
Apollyon is the Destroyer, the angel of the 
bottomless pit; Anauel is the angel of 
bankers and commission brokers. Cun- 
ningham is fascinated by the multifarious 
duties and tasks, both exalted and hum- 
ble, that are assigned to the angels. "Every 
visible thing in the world is put under the 
charge of an angel." said St. Augustine in 
The Eight Questions. 

Cunningham has 1.114 angels in his 
computer now. He adds a few more each 
night, though he knows that he has a long 
way to go before he has them all. In the 
fourteenth century the number of angels 
was reckoned by the Kabbalists. with some 
precision, at 301.655,722. Albertus Mag- 
nus had earlier calculated that each choir 
of angels held 6.666 legions, and each le- 
gion 6.666 angels; even without knowing 
the number of choirs, one can see that that 
produces rather a higher total. And in the 
Talmud, Rabbi Jochanan proposed that 
new angels are born "with every utterance 
that goes forth from the mouth of the Holy 
One. blessed be He." 

If Rabbi Jochanan is correct, the num- 
ber of angels is infinite. Cunningham's per- 
sonal computer, though it has extraordi- 
nary add-on memory capacity and is 
capable, if he chooses, of tapping into the 
huge mainframe machines of the Defense 
Department, has no very practical way of 
handling an infinity. But he is doing his best. 
To have 1,114 angels on line already, after 
only eight months of part-time program- 
ming, is no small achievement. 

One of his favorites of the moment is 
Harahel, the angel of archives, libraries, 
and rare cabinets. Cunningham has des- 
ignated Harahel also the angel of com- 
puters; it seems appropriate. He invokes 
Harahel often, to discuss the evolving 
niceties of data processing with him. But 
he has many other favorites, and his tastes 
run somewhat to the sinister: Azrael. the 
angel of death, for example, and Arioch. 
the angel of vengeance, and Zebuleon. one 
of the nine angels who will govern at the 
end of the world. It is Cunningham's job. 
from eight to four every working day, to 
devise programs for the interception of in- 
coming Soviet nuclear warheads, and that, 

perhaps, has inclined him toward the more 
apocalyptic members of the angelic host. 

He invokes Harahel now. He has bad 
news for him. The invocation that he uses 
is a standard one that he found in Arthur 
Edward Waite's The Lemegeton, or The 
Lesser Key of Solomon, and he has dedi- 
cated one of his function keys to its text, 
so that a single keystroke suffices to load 
it. "I do invocate. conjure, and command 
thee, thou Spirit N. to appear and to show 
thyself visibly unto me before this Circle in 
fair and comely shape," is fhe way it be- 
gins, and it proceeds to utilize various se- 
cret and potent names of God in the sum- 
moning of Spirit N— such names as 
Zabaolh and Ellon and. of course. Adonai — 
and it concludes, "I do potently exorcise 
thee that thou appearesf here to fulfill my 
will in all things which seem good unto me. 
Wherefore, come thou, visibly, peaceably, 
and affably, now, without delay, to manifest 
that which I desire, speaking with a clear 
and perfect voice, intelligibly, and to mine 
understanding." All that takes but a micro- 
second, and another moment to read in the 
name of Harahel as Spirit H, and there the 
angel is on the screen. 

"I am here at your summons," he an- 
nounces expectantly. 

Cunningham works with his angels from 
five to seven every evening Then he has 
dinner. He lives alone, in a neat little flat a 
few blocks west of the Bayshore Freeway 
and does not spend much of his time so- 
cializing. He thinks of himself as a pleasant 
man. a sociable man, and he may very well 
be right about that, but the pattern of his 
life has been a solitary one. He is thirty- 
seven years old, five feet eleven, with red 
hair, pale blue eyes, and a light dusting of 
freckles on his cheeks. He did his under- 
graduate work at Cal Tech, his postgrad- 
uate studies at Stanford, and for the last 
nine years he has been involved in ultra- 
sensitive military-compuler projects in 
northern California. He has never married. 
Sometimes he works with his angels again 
after dinner, from eight to ten, but hardly 
ever any later than that. At ten he goes to 
bed. He is a very methodical person. 

He has given Harahel the physical form 
of his own first computer, a little Radio Shack 
TRS-80, with wings flanking the screen He 

had though! originally to make the ap- 
pearance of his angels more abstract — 
showing Harahel as a sheaf of kilobyles. 
for example— but like many of Cunning- 

hams best and most austere ideas, it had 
turned out impractical in the execution, 
since abstract concepts did not translate 
well into graphics for him. 

"I want to notify you," Cunningham says, 
"of a shift in jurisdiction." He speaks Eng- 
lish with his angels. He has it on good, 
though apocryphal, authority that the pri- 
mary language of the angels is Hebrew, 
but his computer's audio algorithms have 
no Hebrew capacity, nor does Cun- 
ningham. But they speak English readily 
enough with him: they have no choice. 
"From now on." Cunningham tells Harahel. 
"your domain is limited to hardware only." 

Angry green lines rapidly cross and re- 
cross Harahel's screen. "By whose au- 
thority do you — " 

"It isn't a question of authority." Cun- 
ningham replies smoothly. "It's a question 
of precision. I've just read Vretil into the 
data base, and I have to code his func- 
tions. He's the recording angel, after all. 
So, to some degree then he overlaps your 

"Ah." says Harahel, sounding melan- 
choly. "I was hoping you wouldn't bother 
about him." 

"How can I overlook such an important 
angel? 'Scribe of the knowledge of the Most 
High,' according to the Book of Enoch. 
Keeper of the heavenly books and rec- 
ords ' Quicker in wisdom than the other 
archangels.' " 

"If he's so quick, says Harahel sullenly, 
"give him the hardware. That's what gov- 
erns the response lime, you know." 

"I understand. But he maintains the lists. 
That's data base." 

"And where does the data base live? The 

"Listen, this isn't easy for me," Cun- 
ningham says. "But I have to be fair. I know 
you'll agree that some division of respon- 
sibilities is in order. And I'm giving him all 
data bases and related software. You keep 
the rest." 

"Screens. Terminals, CPUs. Big deal." 

"But without you, he's nothing, Harahel. 
Anyway, you've always been in charge of 
cabinets, haven't you?" 

"And archives and libraries," the angel 
says. "Don't forget that." 

"I'm not. But what's a library? Is it the 
books and shelves and stacks, or the words 
on the pages? We have to distinguish the 
container from the thing contained." 

'A grammarian," Harahel sighs. "A hair- 
splitter. A casuist," 

"Look. Vretil wants the hardware, too. But 

he's willing lo compromise. Are you?" 

"You start to sound less and less like our 
programmer and more and more like the 
Almighty every day," says Harahel.' 

"Don't blaspheme." Cunningham tells 
him. "Please Is it agreed? Hardware only?" 
"You win," says the angel. "But you al- 
ways do. naturally." 

Naturally. Cunningham is the one with 
his hands on the keyboard, controlling 
things. The angels, though (hey are elo- 
quent enough and have distinct and pas- 
sionate personalities, are mere magnetic 
impulses deep within. In any contest with 
Cunningham they don't stand a chance. 
Cunningham, though he tries always lo play 
the game by the rules, knows that, and so 
do they. 

It makes him uncomfortable to think about 
it, but the role he plays is definitely godlike 
in all essential ways. He puts the angels 
into the computer; he gives them their tasks, 
their personalities, and their physical ap- 
pearances; he summons them or leaves 
them uncalled, as he wishes. 

A godlike role. yes. But Cunningham re- 
sists confronting that notion He does not 
believe he is trying to be God: he does not 
even want to Ihink about God. His lamily 
had been on comfortable terms with God- 
Uncle Tim was a priest, there was an arch- 
bishop somewhere back a few genera- 
tions, his parents and sisters moved cozily 
within the divine presence as within a warm 
bath — but he himself, unable to quantify 
the Godhead, prelerred lo sidestep any 
though! of it There were other, more im- 
mediate matters to engage his concern. 
His mother had wanted him to go into the 
priesthood, of all things, but Cunningham 
had averted that by demonstrating so vis- 
ible and virtuosic a skill at mathematics that 
even she could see he was destined for 
science. Then she had prayed for a Nobel 
Prize in physics for him; but he had pre- 
ferred computer technology. "Well," she 
said, "a Nobel in computers. I ask the Vir- 
gin daily." 

"There's no Nobel in computers, Mom," 
he told her. Bui he suspects she still offers 
novenas for it. 

The angel project had begun as a lark, 
but had escalated swiftly into an obses- 
sion. He was reading Gustav Davidson's 
old Dictionary oi Angels, and when he came 
upon the description of the angel Adra- 
melech, who had rebelled with Salan and 
had been cast from heaven, Cunningham 
thought it might be amusing to build a 

computer simulation and lalk with him. 
Davidson said that Adramelech was 
sometimes shown as a winged and bearded 
lion, and sometimes as a mule with feath- 
ers, and sometimes as a peacock, and that 
one poet had described him as "the en- 
emy of God. greater in malice, guile, am- 
bition, and mischief than Satan, a fiend more 
curst, a deeper hypocrite." That was ap- 
pealing. Well, why not build him? The 
graphics were easy — Cunningham chose 
the winged-lion form — but getting the per- 
sonality constructed involved a month of 
intense labor and some consultations with 
the artificial-intelligence people over at 
Kestrel Institute. But linally Adramelech was 
on line, suave and diabolical, talking ami- 
ably of his days as an Assyrian god and 
his conversations with Beelzebub, who had 
named him Chancellor ol the Order of the 
Fly (Grand Cross), 

Next. Cunningham did Asmodeus, an- 
other fallen angel, said to be the inventor 
of dancing, gambling, music, drama. 
French fashions, and other frivolities. Cun- 
ningham made him look like a very dash- 
ing Beverly Hills Iranian, with a pair ol tiny 
wings at his collar. It was Asmodeus who 
suggested that Cunningham continue the 
project; so he brought Gabriel and Ra- 
phael on line to provide some balance be- 
tween good and evil, and then Forcas. the 
angel who renders people invisible, re- 
stores lost property, and teaches logic and 
rhetoric in Hell: and by that lime Cun- 
ningham was hooked. 

He surrounded himself with arcane lore: 
M.R. James's editions ol Ihe Apocrypha, 
Waite's Book of Ceremonial Magic and Holy 
Kabbalah. Ihe Mystical Theology and Ce- 
lestial Hierarchies of Dionysius the Areop- 
agite, and dozens of related works that he 
called up from the Stanford data base in a 
kind of manic fervor. As he codified his 
systems, he became able to put in live, 
eight, a dozen angels a night: one June 
evening, staying up well past his usual time, 
he managed thirty-seven. As the popula- 
tion grew, it took on weight and substance, 
for one angel cross-filed another, and they 
behaved now as though they held long 
conversations with one another even when 
Cunningham was occupied elsewhere. 

The question of actual belief in angels, 
like that of belief in God Himself, never arose 
in him. His projeci was purely a lechnical 
challenge, nol a theological exploration. 
Once, at lunch, he told a co-worker what 
he was doing, and got a chilly blank stare, 
'Angels? Angels? Flying around with big 

flapping wings, passing miracles? You 
aren't seriously telling me lhal you believe 
in angels, are you, Dan?" 

To which Cunningham replied, "You don't 
have to believe in angels to make use of 
them. I'm not always sure I believe in elec- 
trons and protons. I know I've never seen 
any. But I make use of them." 

And what use do you make of angels?" 
But Cunningham had lost interest in the 

He divides his evenings between calling 
up his angels for conversations and pro- 
gramming additional ones into his pan- 
theon. That requires continuous intensive 
research, for the literature of angels is ex- 
traordinarily large, and he is thorough in 
everything he does. The research is lime- 
consuming, for he wants his angels lo meet 
every scholarly test of authenticity. He pores 
constantly over such works as Ginzberg's 
seven-volume Legends of the Jews. Clem- 
ent of Alexandria's Prophetic Eclogues, 
Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine. 

It is the early part ot the evening. He 
brings up Hagilh. ruler of the planet Venus 
and commander of 4.000 legions ol spirits, 
and asks him details of the transmutation 
of metals, which is Hagith's specialty. He 
summons Hadraniel. who m Kabbalistic lore 
is a porter at ihe second gate of Heaven, 
and whose voice, when he proclaims the 
will of the Lord, penetrates through 200.000 
universes: he questions the angel about 
his meeting with Moses, who uliered ihe 
Supreme Name at him and made him 
Iremble. And then Cunningham sends lor 
Israfel ihe four-winged, whose feet are un- 
der the seventh earth, and whose head 
reaches to the pillars of the divine throne. 
It will be Israfel's task to blow the trumpet 
that annouces the arrival of the Day of 
Judgment. Cunningham asks him to lake 
a few trial riffs now— "just for practice," he 
says, but Israfel declines, saying he can- 
not touch his instrument until he receives 
the signal, and the command sequence for 
that, says the angel, is nowhere to be found 
in the software Cunningham has thus far 

When he wearies of talking with Ihe an- 
gels, Cunningham begins the evening's 
programming. By now the algorithms are 
second nature and he can enter angels 
into Ihe computer In a mailer of minules. 
once he has done the research, This eve- 
ning he inserts nine more, Then he opens 
a beer, sits back, and lets Ihe day wind 
down lo its close. 


He thinks he understands why he has 
become so intensely involved with this en- 
terprise. It is because he must contend each 
day in his daily work with matters of terri- 
fying apocalyptic import: nothing less, in- 
deed, than the impending destruction of 
the world. Cunningham works routinely with 
megadeath simulation. For six hours a day 
he sets up hypothetical situations in which 
Country A goes into alert mode, expecting 
an attack from Country B. which thereupon 
begins to suspect a preemptive strike and 
commences a defensive response, which 
leads Country A to escalate its own readi- 
ness, and so on until the bombs are in the 
air. He is aware, as are many thoughtful 
people both in Country A and Country B. 
that the possibility of computer-generated 
misinformation leading to a nuclear holo- 
caust increases each year, as the time- 
window for correcting a malfunction dimin- 
ishes, Cunningham also knows something 
that very few others do. or perhaps no one 
else at all: that it is now possible to send a 
signal to the giant computers — to Theirs 
or Ours, it makes no difference — that will 
be indistinguishable from the impulses that 
an actual flight of airborne warhead-bear- 
ing missiles would generate. It such a sig- 
nal is permitted to enter the system, a min- 
imum of eleven minutes, at the present time, 
will be needed to carry out fail-safe deter- 
mination of its authenticity. That, at the 
present time, is too long to wait to decide 
whether the incoming missiles are real: a 
much swifter response is required. 

Cunningham, when he designed his 
missile-simulating signal, thought al once 
of erasing his work. But he could not bring 
himself to do that: the program was too 
elegant, too perfect. On the other hand, he 
was afraid to tell anyone about it, tor fear 
that it would be taken beyond his level of 
classification at once, and sealed away from 
him. He does not want that, for he dreams 
of finding an antidote for it, some sort of 
resonating inquiry mode that will distin- 
guish all true alarms from false. When he 
has it. if he ever does, he will present both 
modes, in a single package, to Defense. 
Meanwhile, he bears the burden of sup- 
pressing a concept ot overwhelming stra 
legic importance. He has never done any 
thing like that before. And he does not 
delude himself into thinking his mind is 
unique: if he could devise something like 
this, someone else probably could do it 
also, perhaps someone on the other side. 
True, it is a useless, suicidal program. But 
it would not be the first suicidal program 

to be devised in the interests of military 

He knows he must take his simulator to 
his superiors before much more time goes 
by. And under the strain of that knowledge, 
he is beginning to show distinct signs of 
erosion. He mingles less and less with other 
people; he has unpleasant dreams and 
occasional periods of insomnia; he has lost 
his appetite and looks gaunt and haggard. 
The angel project is his only useful diver- 
sion, his chief distraction, his one avenue 
of escape. 

For all his scrupulous scholarship Cun- 
ningham has nol hesitated to invent a few 
angels of his own. Uraniel is one of his: the 
angel of radioactive decay, with a face of 
whirling electron-shells. And he has coined 
Dimitrion, too: the angel of Russian litera- 
ture, whose wings are sleighs and whose 
head is a snow-covered samovar. Cun- 
ningham feels no guilt over such whimsies. 
It is his computer, after all, and his pro- 
gram. And he knows he is not the first to 
concoct angels. Blake engendered pla- 
toons of them in his poems: Urizen and 
Ore and Enitharmon and more. Milton, he 
suspects, populaled Paradise Lost with 
dozens of sprites of his own invention, 
Gurdjieff and Alaslair Crowley and even 
Pope Gregory the Great had their turns al 
amplifying the angelic roster: why then not 
also Dan Cunningham of Palo Alto. Cali- 
fornia? So from time to lime he works one 
up on his own His most recent is the dread 
high lord Basileus. to whom Cunningham 
has given the title of Emperor of the An- 
gels. Basileus is still incomplete; Cun- 
ningham has not arrived at his physical ap- 
pearance, nor his specific functions, other 
than to make him the chief administrator of 
the angelic horde. But there is something 
unsatisfactory about imagining a new 
archangel, when Gabriel, Raphael, and 
Michael already constitute the high com- 
mand. Basileus needs more work. Cun- 
ningham puts him aside, and begins to key 
in Duma, the angel of silence and of Ihe 
stillness of death, thousand-eyed, armed 
with a fiery rod. His style in angels is get- 
ting darker and darker. 

On a misty, rainy night in fate October, a 
woman fromSan Francisco whom he knows 
in a distant, occasional way phones to in- 
vite him to a party. Her name is Joanna; 

she is in her mid-thirties, a biologist work- 
ing for one of the little gene-splicing outfits 
in Berkeley; Cunningham had had a brief 

and vague affair with her five or six years 
back, when she was at Stanford, and since 
then they have kept fitfully in touch, with 
long intervals elapsing between meetings. 
He has not seen her or heard from her in 
over a year. "It's going to be an interesting 
bunch," she tells him. "A futurologist from 
New York, Thomson the sociobiology man, 
a couple of video poets, and someone from 
the chimpanzee-language outfit, and I for- 
get the rest, but they all sounded first rate." 

Cunningham hates parties. They bore 
and jangle him. No matter how firsl rate the 
people are, he thinks, real interchange of 
ideas is impossible in a large random group, 
and the best one can hope for is some 
pleasant low-level chatter. He would rather 
be alone with his angels than waste an 
evening that way. 

On the other hand, it has been so long 
since he has done anything of a social na- 
ture that he has trouble remembering what 
the last gathering was. As he had been 
telling himself all his life, he needs to get 
out more often. He likes Joanna and it's 
about time they got together, he thinks, and 
he fears that if he turns her down, she may 
not call again for years, And the gentle pat- 
ter of the rain, coming on this mild evening 
after the long dry months of summer, has 
left him feeling uncharacteristically re- 
laxed, open, accessible. 

"All right," he says. "I'll be glad to go." 

The party is in San Mateo on Saturday 
night. He takes down the address. They 
arrange to meet there. Perhaps she'll come 
home with him afterward, he thinks: San 
Mateo is only fifteen minutes from his house, 
and she'll have a much longer drive back 
up to San Francisco. The thought surprises 
him. He had supposed he had lost all in- 
terest in her that way; he had supposed he 
had lost all interest in anyone that way, as 
a matter of fact, 

Three days before the parly, he decides 
to call Joanna and cancel. The idea of mill- 
ing aboul in a roomful of strangers appalls 
him. He can't imagine, now, why he ever 
agreed to go. Belter to stay home alone 
and pass a long rainy night designing an- 
gels and conversing with Uriel. Ithuriel. Ra- 
phael. Gabriel. 

But as he goes toward the telephone, 
that renewed hunger for solitude vanishes 
as swiftly as it came. He does want to go 
to the party. He does want to see Joanna; 
very much, indeed. It startles him to realize 
that he positively yearns for some change 
in his rigid routine, some escape from his 

lillle apartment, ils elaborate computer 
hookup, even its angels. 

Cunningham imagines himself at the 
party, in some brightly lit room in a hand- 
some redwood-and-glass house perched 
in the hills above San Mateo. He stands 
with his back to the vast sparkling wrap- 
around window, a drink in his hand, and 
tie is holding forth, dominaling the con- 
versation, sharing his rich slock ol angel 
lore with a fascinated audience. 

"Yes. 300 million of them." he is saying, 
"and each with his fixed function. Angels 
don't have tree will, you know. Us Church 
doctrine that they're created with if. buf al 
the moment of their birth, they're given the 
choice of opting for God or againsl Him. 
and the choice is irrevocable. Once they've 
made it. they're unalterably fixed, for good 
or for evil. Oh, and angels are born circum- 
cised, too. At least the Angels of Sanctifi- 
cation and the Angels of Glory are. and 
maybe the seventy Angels of the Presence." 

"Does that mean that all angels are 
male?" asks a slender dark-haired woman. 

"Strictly speaking, they're bodiless and 
therefore without sex." Cunningham tells 
her. "But in fact, the religions that believe 
in angels are mainly patriarchal ones, and 
when the angels are visuali2ed. they tend 

to be portrayed as men. Although some of 
them, apparently, can change sex at will. 
Milton tells us lhat in Paradise Lost: 'Spirits 
when they please can either sex assume. 
or both: so soft and uncompounded is their 
essence pure.' And some angels seem to 
be envisioned as female in the first place. 
There's the Shekinah. for instance, 'the bride 
of God.' ihe manifestation ol His glory in- 
dwelling in human beings. There's Sophia, 
the angel of wisdom. And Lilith. Adams 
first wife, the demon of lust — " 

'Are demons considered angels, then?" 
a tall professorial-looking man wants to 

"Of course. They're the angels who opted 
away from God. 8u1 they're angels never- 
theless, even if we mortals perceive their 
aspects as demonic or diabolical." 

He goes on and on. They all listen as 
though he is God's own messenger, He 
speaks of the hierarchies of angels— the 
seraphim, cherubim, thrones, domina- 
tions, principalities, powers, virtues, arch- 
angels and angels— and he tells them of 
the various lists of Ihe seven great angels, 
which differ so greatly once one gets be- 
yond Michael. Gabriel, and Raphael, and 
he speaks ol Ihe 90.000 angels of destruc- 
tion and the 300 angels of light he con- 

jures up the seven angels with seven trum- 
pets from Ihe Book of Revelation, he tells 
them which angels rule the seven days of 
the week and which the hours of the days 
and nights, he pours forth the wondrous 
angelic names, Zadkiel, Hashmal. Or- 
phaniel. Jehudiel. Phaleg. Zagzagel. There 
is no end to it. He is in his glory. He is a 
fount of arcana. Then, Ihe manic mood 
passes. He is alone in his room: there is 
no eager audience. Once again he thinks 
he will skip the party. No. No He will go. 
He wants to see Joanna. 

He goes to his terminal and calls up two 
final angels before bedtime: Leviathan and 
Behemoth. Behemoth is the great hippo- 
potamus-angel, the vast beast of dark- 
ness, the angel of chaos. Leviathan is his 
mate, the mighty she-whale, the splendid 
sea serpent. They dance for him on the 
screen. Behemoth's huge mouth yawns 
wide. Leviathan gapes even more awe- 
somely. "We are getting hungry." they tell 
him. "When is feeding time?" In rabbinical 
lore, these two will swallow all the damned 
souls at the end of days. Cunningham 
tosses them some electronic sardines and 
sends them away. As he closes his eyes 
he invokes Poleh. the angel of oblivion, and 
falls into a black dreamless sleep. 




"Of course I'm listening to you, Harriet. You said you were a Martian. 

Al his desk (he next morning, he is at 
work on a standard item, a glitch-clearing 
program for the third-quadrant surveil- 
lance satellites, when he finds himself un- 
accountably trembling. That has never 
happened to him before. His fingernails look 
almost white, his wrists are rigid, his hands 
are quivering. He feels chilled. It is as 
though he has not slept for days. In the 
washroom he clings to the sink and stares 
at his pallid, sweaty face. Someone comes 
up behind him and says, "You all right, 

"Yeah. Just a little attack of the damn 

"All that wild living in the middle of the 
week wears a man down," the other says, 
and moves along. The social necessities 
have been observed: a question, a non- 
committal answer, a quip, goodbye He 
could have been having a stroke here and 
they would have played it the same way. 
Cunningham has no close friends at the" 
office. He knows that they regard him as 
eccentric — eccentric in the wrong way not 
lively and quirky but just a peculiar kind of 
hermit — and getting worse all the time. I 
could destroy the world, he thinks. I could 
go into the Big Room and type for fifteen 
seconds, and wed be on all-out alert a 
minute later and the bombs would be com- 
ing down from orbit six minutes later. I could 
give that signal. I could really do it. I could 
do it right now. 

Waves of nausea sweep him and he grips 
the edge of the sink until the last racking 
spasm is over. Then he cleans his face and, 
calmer now, returns to his desk to stare at 
the little green symbols on the screen. 

That evening, still trying to find a func- 
tion for Basileus, Cunningham discovers 
himself thinking of demons, and of one de- 
mon not in the classical demonology — 
Maxwell's Demon, the one that the physi- 
cist James Clerk Maxwell postulated to 
send fast-moving molecules in one direc- 
tion and slow ones in another, thereby pro- 
viding an ultra-efficient method for heating 
and refrigeration. Perhaps some sort of fil- 
tering role could be devised for Basileus. 
Last week a few of the loftier angels had 
been complaining about the proximity to 
them of certain fallen angels within the 
computer. "There's a smell of brimstone on 
this disk that I don't like," Gabriel had said. 
Cunningham wonders if he could make 
Basileus a kind of traffic manager within 
the program: let him sit in there and ship 
the celestial angels into one sector of a 


disk, the fallen ones to another. 

The idea appeals to him for about thirty 
seconds. Then he sees how fundamentally 
trivial it is. He doesn't need an angel for a 
job like that; a little simple software could 
do it. Cunningham's corollary to Kant's 
categorical imperative: Never use an an- 
gel as mere software. He smiles, possibly 
for the first time all week. Why, he doesn't 
even need software. He can handle it him- 
self, simply by assigning princes of Heaven 
to one file and demons to a different one. 
It- hadn't seemed necessary to segregate 
his angels that way, or he would have done 
it from the start. But since now they were 
complaining — 

He begins to flange up a sorting pro- 
gram to separate the files. It should have 
taken him a few minutes, but he finds him- 
self working in a rambling, muddled way, 
doing an untypically sloppy job. With a 
quick swipe, he erases what he has done. 
Gabriel would have to put up with the reek 
of brimstone a little longer, he thinks. 

There is a dull throbbing pain just be- 
hind his eyes. His throat is dry, his lips feel 
parched. Basileus would have to wait a lit- 
tle longer, too. Cunningham keys up an- 
other angel, allowing his fingers to choose 
for him, and finds himself looking at a blank- 
faced angel with a gleaming metal skin. 
One of the early ones, Cunningham real- 
izes. "I don't remember your name," he 
says. "Who are you?" 

"I am Anaphaxeton," 

'And your function?" 

"When my name is pronounced aloud, I 
will cause the angels to summon the entire 
universe Before the bar of justice on Judg- 
ment Day." 

"Oh, Jesus," Cunningham says. "I don't 
want you tonight." 

He sends Anaphaxeton away and finds 
himself with the dark angel Apollyon, fish- 
scales, dragon-wings, bear-feet, breath- 
ing fire and smoke, holding the key to the 
Abyss. "No." Cunningham says, and brings 
up Michael, standing with drawn sword over 
Jerusalem, and sends him away only to 
find on the screen an angel with 70.000 
feet and 4,000 wings, who is Azrael, the 
angel of death. "No," says Cunningham 
again. "Not you. Oh. Christ!" A vengeful 
army crowds his computer. On his screen 
there passes a flurrying regiment of wings 
and eyes and beaks. He shivers and shuts 
the system down for the night. Jesus, he 
thinks. Jesus. Jesus, Jesus. All night long, 
suns explode in his brain. 

On Friday his supervisor, Ned Harris, 

saunters to his desk in an unusually folksy 
way and asks if he's going to be doing 
anything interesting this weekend. Cun- 
ningham shrugs. 'A party Saturday night, 
that's about all. Why?" 

"Thought you might be going off on a 
fishing trip, or something. Looks like the 
last nice weekend before the rainy season 
sets in, wouldn't you say?" 

"I'm not a fisherman, Ned," 

"Take some kind of trip. Drive down to 
Monterey, maybe. Or up into the wine 

"What are you getting at?" 

"You look like you could use a little 
change of pace." Harris says amiably, 'A 
couple of days off. You've been crunching 
numbers so hard, they're starting to crunch 
you, is my guess." 

"It's that obvious?" 

Harris nods. "You're tired. Dan. It shows. 
We're a little like air traffic controllers around 
here, you know, working so hard we start 
to drearn about blips on the screen. That's 
no good. Get the hell out of town, fellow. 
The Defense Department can operate 
without you for a while. Okay? Take Mon- 
day off. Tuesday, even. I can't afford to have 
a fine mind like yours going goofy from 
fatigue, Dan," 

"All right, Ned. Sure. Thanks." 

His hands are shaking again. His fin- 
gernails are colorless. 

'And get a good early start on the week- 
end, loo. No need for you to hang around 
here today until four." 

"If that's okay — " 

"Go on. Shoo!" 

Cunningham closes down his desk and 
makes his way uncertainly out of the build- 
ing. The security guards wave at him. 
Everyone seems to know he's being sent 
home early. Is this what it's like to crack up 
on the job? He wanders about the parking 
lot for a little while, not sure where he has 
left his car. At last he finds it, and drives 
home at thirty miles an hour, with horns 
honking at him all the way as he wanders 
up the freeway. 

He settles wearily in front of his com- 
puter and brings the system on line, calling 
for Harahel. Surely the angel of computers 
will not plague him with such apocalyptic 

Harahel says. "Well, we've worked out 
your Basileus problem for you." 

"You have?" 

"Uriel had the basic idea, building on 
your Maxwell's Demon notion. Israfel and 
Azrael developed it some. What's needed 

is an angel embodying God's justice and 
God's mercy. A kind of evaluator, a iiltering 
angel. He weighs deeds in Ihe balance. 
and arrives at a verdict." 

"What's new about that?" Cunningham 
asks. "Something like that's built into every 
mythology from Sumer and Egypt on. 
There's always a mechanism for evaluat- 
ing the souls of the dead — this one goes 
to Paradise, this one goes to Hell—" 

"Wait," Harahel says. "I wasn't finished. 
I'm not talking about the evaluation of in- 
dividual souls." 

"What then?" 

"Worlds," the angel replies. "Basileus will 
be ihe judge of worlds. He holds an entire 
planet up to scrutiny and decides whether 
it's time to call for the last trump." 

"Part of the machinery of Judgment, you 

"Exactly. He's the one who presents the 
evidence to God and helps Him make His 
decision. And then he's the one who tells 
Israfel to blow the trumpet, and he's the 
one who calls out the name of Anaphax- 
eton to bring everyone before the bar. He's 
the prime apocalyptic angel, the destroyer 
of worlds. And we thought you might make 
him look like — " 

'Ah," Cunningham says. "Not now. Let's 
talk about that some other time." 

He shuts the system down, pours him- 
self a drink, sits staring out the window at 
the big eucalyptus tree in the front yard. 
After a while it begins to rain. Not such a 
good weekend for a drive into the country 
after all, he thinks. He does not turn the 
computer on again that evening. 

Despite everything, Cunningham goes 
to the party. Joanna is not there. She has 
phoned to cancel, late Saturday after- 
noon, pleading a bad cold. He detects no 
sound of a cold in her voice, but perhaps 
she is telling the truth. Or possibly she has 
found something better to do on Saturday 
night. But he is already geared for party- 
going, and he is so tired, so eroded, that 
it is more effort to change his internal pro- 
gram than it is to follow through on the orig- 
inal schedule. So about eight that evening 
he drives up to San Mateo, through a light 

The party turns out not to be in the glam- 
orous hills west of town, but in a small 
cramped condominium, close to the heart 
of the city, furnished with what looks like 
somebody's college-era chairs and 
couches and bookshelves. A cheap stereo 
is playing the pop music of a dozen years 

ago, and a sputtering screen provides a 
crude computer-generated light show. The 
host is some sort of marketing exec for a 
large video-games company in San Jose, 
and most of the guests look vaguely cor- 
porate, too. The futurologist from New York 
has sent his regrets; the famous socio- 
biologist has also failed to arrive; the video 
poets are two San Francisco gays who will 
talk only to each other, and stray not very 
far from the bar; the expert on teaching 
chimpanzees to speak is in the red-faced- 
and-sweaty stage of being drunk, and is 
working hard at seducing a plump woman 
festooned with astrological jewelry. Cun- 
ningham, numb, drifts through the party as 
though he is made of ectoplasm. He speaks 
to no one; no one speaks to him. Some 
jugs of red wine are open on a table by the 
window, and he pours himself a glassful. 
There he stands, immobile, imprisoned by 
inertia. He imagines himself suddenly 
making a speech about angels, telling 
everyone how Ithuriel touched Satan with 
his spear in the Garden of Eden as Ihe 
Fiend crouched next to Eve, and how Ihe 
hierarch Ataphiel keeps Heaven aloft by 
balancing it on three fingers. But he says 
nothing. After a time he finds himself ap- 
proached by a lean, leathery-looking 
woman with glittering eyes, who says, 'And 
what do you do?" 

"I'm a programmer," Cunningham says. 
"Mainly I talk to angels. But I also do na- 
tional security stuff." 

"Angels?" she says, and laughs in a brit- 
tle, tinkling way. "You talk to angels? I've 
never heard anyone say that before." She 
pours herself a drink and moves quickly 

'Angels?" says the astrological woman. 
"Did someone say angels?" 

Cunningham smiles and shrugs and 
looks out the window. It is raining harder. I 
should go home, he thinks. There is ab- 
solutely no point in being here. He fills his 
glass again. The chimpanzee man is still 
working on the astrologer, but she seems 
to be trying to get free of him and come 
over to Cunningham. To discuss angels with 
him? She is heavy-breasted, a little wall- 
eyed, sloppy-looking. He does not want to 
discuss angels with her. He does not want 
to discuss angels with anyone. He holds 
his place at the window until it definitely 
does appear that the astrologer is heading 
his way; then he drifts toward the door. She 
says, "I heard you say you were interested 
in angels. Angels are a special field of mine, 
you know. I've studied with — " 

"Angles," Cunningham says. "I play the 
angles. That's what I said. I'm a profes- 
sional gambler." 

"Wait," she says, but he moves past her 
and out into the night. It takes him a long 
while to find his key and get his car un- 
locked, and the rain soaks him to the skin, 
but that does not bother him. He is home 
a little before midnight. 

He brings Raphael on line. The great 
archangel radiates a beautiful golden glow. 

"You will be Basileus," Raphael tells him. 
"We've decided it by a vote, hierarchy by 
hierarchy. Everyone agrees." 

"I can't be an angel. I'm human," Cun- 
ningham replies. 

"There's ample precedent. Enoch was 
carried off to Heaven and became an an- 
gel. So was Elijah. St. John the Baptist was 
actually an angel. You will become Basi- 
leus. We've already done the program for 
you. It's on the disk: just call him up and 
you'll see. Your own face, looking out at 

"No," Cunningham says. 

"How can you refuse?" 

"Are you really Raphael? You sound like 
someone from the other side. A tempter. 
Asmodeus. Astaroth. Belphegor." 

"I am Raphael. And you are Basileus." 

Cunningham considers it. He is so very 
tired that he can barely think. 

An angel. Why not? A rainy Saturday 
night, a lousy party, a splitting headache: 
come home and find out you've been made 
an angel, and given a high place in the 
hierarchy. Why not? Why the hell not? 

'All right," he says. "I'm Basileus." 

He puts his hands on the keys and taps 
out a simple formulation that goes straight 
down the pipe into the Defense Depart- 
ment's big Northern California system. With 
an alteration of two keystrokes, he sends 
the same message to the Soviets. Why not? 
Redundancy is the soul of security. The 
world now has about six minutes left. Cun- 
ningham has always been good with com- 
puters. He knows their secret language as 
few people before him have. 

Then he brings Raphael on Ihe screen 

"You should see yourself as Basileus 
while there's still time," the archangel says. 

"Yes. Of course. What's the access key?" 

Raphael tells him. Cunningham begins 
fo set it up. 

Come now, Basileus! We are one! 

Cunningham stares at the screen with 
growing wonder and delight, while the clock 
continues to tick. 


An alien's deception provides an artist's muse-. 



It was a surfeit of perfection 
that drove the soul painter 
Therion Nismiie from the crys- 
talline cities of Castle Mount to 
the dark forests of the western 
continent: At!- his.ljfe he had 
lived amid.-the- wonders', of- the " 
Mount, traveling, through ihe 

Fifty Cities according to the 
demands of his career, ex- 
changing'one sort of splendor - 
for another every rew-years. 
Dundijfjiir" was his -native 
city— his '-first " .canvases .-were 
scenes of the Fiery. Valley., 
tempestuous ab_cf" passionate 


-v- 77: 



. ■ •■ ■'• 

with the ragged energies of youth — and 
then he dwelled some years in marvelous 
Canzilaine of the talking statues, and af- 
terward in Stee the awesome, whose out- 
skirts were three days' journey across, and 
in golden Halanx at the very fringes oi the 
Castle, and for five years at the Castle it- 
self. where he painted at the court of the 
Coronal Lord Thraym. His paintings were 
prized for their calm elegance and their 
perfection of form, which mirrored the 
lawlessness of the Fifty Cities. But the 
beauty of such places numbs the soul, after 
a time, and paralyzes the artistic instincts. 
When Nismile reached his fortieth year, he 
found himself beginning to identify perfec- 
tion with stagnation: he loathed his famous 
works: his spirit began to cry out for up- 
heaval unpredictability, transformation. 

The moment of crisis overtook him in the 
gardens of Tolingar Barrier. The Coronal 
had asked him for a suite of paintings of 
the gardens, to decorate a pergola under 
construction on the Castle's rim. 

Nismile was happy to oblige. He taced 
his blank canvas, drew breath deep down 
into his lungs, and readied himself for en- 
tering the trance state. In a moment his 
soul, leaping from his dreaming mind, would 
imprint the unique intensity of his vision on 
the psychosensitive fabric. He glanced at 
the gentle hills, the artful shrubbery, the 
delicately angled leaves, and a wave of 
rebellious fury crashed against him. And 
he quivered and shook and nearly fell. This 
immobile landscape, this static, sterile 
beauty, this impeccable and matchless 
garden, had no need of him: it was itself 
as unchanging as a painting, and as life- 
less, How ghastly! How hateful! Nismile 
swayed and pressed his hands to his 
pounding skull. He heard the soft, sur- 
prised grunts of his companions, and when 
he opened his eyes, he saw them all star- 
ing in horror and embarrassment at the 
blackened and bubbling canvas "Cover 
it! ' he cried. Everyone was in motion at 
once and in the center of the group Nis- 
mile stood statue-still When he could speak 
again, he said. "Tell Lord Thraym I will be 
unable to fulfill his commission. 

And so that day in Dundilmir he pur- 
chased what he needed and began his 
journey to the lowlands. He found passage 
on a pilgrim ship sailing to Piliplok on the 
continent of Zimroel— the entire interior of 
which was wilderness, into which Lord 
Stiamot had driven the aboriginal Meta- 
morphs after their final defeat four thou- 
sand years before. 

Nismile expected the port of Piliplok to 
be a mudhole. but to his surprise it turned 
out to be an ancient and enormous city, 
laid out according to a maddeningly rigid 
mathematical plan. It was ugly, but not in 
any refreshing way. and he moved on by 
riverboat up the Zimr. At a town called Verf 
he impulsively left the boat and set forth in 
a hired wagon into the forests to the south. 
When he had traveled so deep into the wil- 
derness that he could see no trace of civ- 
ilization, he halted and built a cabin beside 
a swift, dark stream. It was three years since 
he had left Castle Mount. Through all his 
journey he had been alone and had spo- 
ken to others only when necessary, and he 
had not painted at all. 

Here Nismile began to heal. Everything 
in this place was unfamiliar and wonderful. 
On Castle Mount, where the climate was 
artificially controlled, an endless sweet 
springtime reigned, the unreal air was clear 
and pure, and rainfall came at predictable 
times. But now he was in a rain forest, where 
the soil was spongy and yielding, clouds 
and tongues of fog often drifted by. show- 
ers were frequent, and the vegetation was 
a chaotic, tangled anarchy. It was as far 
removed as he could imagine from the 
symmetries of Tolingar Barrier. He wore lit- 
tle clothing, learned by trial and error what 
roots and berries and shoots were safe to 
eat. and devised a wickerwork weir to help 
him catch the slender crimson fish that 
flashed like skyrockets through the stream. 
He walked for hours through the dense 
jungle, savoring not only its strange beauty 
but also the tense pleasure of wondering 
whether he could find his way back to his 
cabin. Often he sang, in a loud, erratic 
voice: he had never sung on Castle Mount. 
Occasionally he started to prepare a can- 
vas, but always he put it away unused. He 
composed nonsensical poems, voluptu- 
ous strings oi syllables, and chanted them 
to an audience of slender, towering trees 
and incomprehensibly intertwined vines. 
Sometimes he thought back to the court of 
Lord Thraym. wondering whether the Cor- 
onal had hired a new artist to paint the dec- 
orations for the pergola, and whether the 
halatingas were now blooming along the 
road to High Morpin. But such thoughts 
came rarely. 

He lost track of time. Four or five or per- 
haps six weeks— how could he tell?— went 
by before he saw his first Metamorph. 

The encounter took place in a marshy 
meadow two miles upstream from his cabin. 
Nismile had gone there to gather the suc- 

culent scarlet bulbs of mud-lilies, which he 
had learned to mash and roast into a sort 
of bread. They grew deep, and he dug them 
by working his arm to the shoulder into the 
muck and groping about with one cheek 
pressed to the ground. He came up muddy- 
faced and slippery, clutching a dripping 
handful, and was startled to find a figure 
calmly watching him from a distance of a 
dozen yards. 

He had never seen a Metamorph. The 
native beings of Majipoor were perpetually 
exiled from the capital continent. Alhan- 
roel. where Nismile had spent all his years. 
But he had an idea of how they looked, 
and he felt sure this must be one: an enor- 
mously tall, fragile, sallow-skinned being, 
sharp-faced, with inward-sloping eyes, a 
barely perceptible nose, and stringy, rub- 
bery hair of a pale greenish hue. It wore 
only a leather loin harness. A short, sharp 
dirk of some polished black wood was 
strapped to its hip. In eerie dignity the 
Metamorph stood balanced with one frail, 
long leg twisted around the shin ot the other. 
It seemed both sinister and gentle, men- 
acing and comical Nismile chose not to 
be alarmed 

"Hello," he said. "Do you mind if I gather 
bulbs here?" 

The Metamorph was silent. 

"I have the cabin down the stream. I'm 
Therion Nismile. I used to be a soul painter 
when I lived on Castle Mount." 

The Metamorph regarded him solemnly. 
An unreadable expression flickered across 
its face. Then the Metamorph turned and 
slipped gracefully into the jungle, vanish- 
ing almost at once, 

Nismile shrugged. He dug for more mud- 
lily bulbs. 

A week or two later he met another Meta- 
morph, or perhaps the same one, this time 
while he was stripping bark from a vine to 
make rope for a bilantoon trap. Once more 
the aborigine was wordless, materializing 
quietly like an apparition in front of Nismile 
and contemplating him from the same un- 
settling one-legged stance. A second time 
Nismile tried to draw the creature into con- 
versation, but at his first words it drifted 
off. ghostlike. "Wait!" Nismile called. "I'd 
like to talk with you. I — " But he was alone 

A few days afterward he was collecting 
firewood and soon became aware that he 
was being studied. At once he said to the 
Metamorph, "I've caught a bilantoon. and 
I'm about to roast it. There's more meat 
than I need. Will you share my dinner?" 
The Metamorph smiled— he took that 

enigmatic dicker for a smile, though il could 
have been anything — and as if by way of 
replying underwent a sudden astonishing 
shift, turning itself into a mirror image of 
Nismile. stocky and muscular, with dark, 
penetrating eyes and shoulder-length black 
hair. Nismile blinked wildly and trembled; 
then, recovering, he smiled, taking the 
mimicry as some form of communication, 
and said. "Marvelous! I cant begin to see 
how you people do it!" He beckoned. 
"Come. It'll take an hour and a half to cook 
the bilantoon. and we can talk until then. 
You understand our language, don't you?" 
It was bizarre beyond measure, this 
speaking to a duplicate of himself. "Say 
something, eh? Tell me: Is there a Meta- 
morph village somewhere nearby? Pturf- 
var," he corrected, remembering the 
Melamorphs' name for themselves. "Eh? A 
lot of Piuhvars hereabouts, in the jungle?" 
Nismile gestured again. "Walk with me to 
my cabin and we'll get the fire going. You 
don't have any wine, do you? That's the 
only thing I miss. I think, some good Strong 
wine, the heavy stuff they make in Mulde- 
mar. Won't taste that ever again. I guess, 
but there's wine in Zimroel. isn't there? Eh? 
Will you say something?" But the Meia- 
morph responded only with a grimace, 
perhaps intended as a grin, that twisted 
the Nismile face into something harsh and 
strange; then it resumed its own form in an 
instant and with calm, floating strides 
started walking away. 

Nismile hoped for a time that it would 
return with a flask of wine, but he did nof 
see it again. Curious creatures, he thought. 
Were they angry that he was camped in 
their territory? Were they keeping him un- 
der surveillance out of fear that he was the 
vanguard of a wave of human settlers? 
Oddly, he felt himself in no danger. Meta- 
morphs were generally considered to be 
malevolent: certainly they were disquiet- 
ing beings, alien and unfathomable Plenty 
ol tales were told of Metamorph raids on 
outlying human settlements, and no doubt 
these Shapeshifter folk harbored bitter 
hatred for those who had come to their world 
and dispossessed them, driving them into 
the jungles. Nismile knew himself to be a 
man of goodwill, who had never done harm 
toothers and wanted only to be left to live 
his life, and he fancied that some subtle 
sense would lead the Metamorphs lo re- 
alize that he was not their enemy. He wished 
he could become their friend. He was 
growing hungry for conversation after his 
time of solitude and thought it might be 

challenging and rewarding lo exchange 
ideas with these strange folk He might even 
paint one. He had been thinking of return- 
ing to his art. of experiencing that moment 
ol creative ecstasy as his soul leaped the 
gap to the psychosensitive canvas and in- 
scribed on it those images that he alone 
could fashion. Surely he was different now 
from the increasingly unhappy man he had 
been on Castle Mount, and that difference 
must show itself in his work. During the 
next few days he rehearsed speeches de- 
signed to win the confidence of the Meta- 
morphs, to overcome that strange shyness 
of theirs, that delicacy of bearing that 
blocked any sort of contact. In time, he 
thought, they would grow used to him; they 
would begin to speak, to accept his invi- 
tation to eat with him. and then perhaps 
they would pose — 

But in the days that followed he saw no 
more Metamorphs. He roamed the forest, 
peering hopefully into thickets and down 
mist-swept lanes of trees, and found no 
one. He decided that he had been too for- 
ward and had frightened them away— so 
much for the malevolence of the mon- 
strous Metamorphs!— and after a while he 
ceased to expect further contact It was 
disturbing. He had not missed companion- 
Ship when none seemed likely, but the 
knowledge that there were intelligent beings 
somewhere in the area kindled an aware- 
ness of loneliness in him that was not easy 
to bear. 

One damp and warm day several weeks 
after his last Metamorph encounter, Nis- 
mile was swimming in the cool, deep pond 
formed by a natural dam of boulders hall 
a mile below his cabin. He saw a pale, slim 
figure moving quickly through a dense 
bower of blue-leaved bushes near the 
shore. He scrambled out of the water, 
barking his knees on the rocks. "Wait!" he 
shouted. "Please— don't be afraid— don't 
go — " The figure disappeared, but Nis- 
mile, thrashing frantically through the un- 
derbrush, caught sight of it again in a few 
minutes, leaning casually now against an 
enormous tree with vivid red bark. 

Nismile stopped short, amazed, for the 
other was no Metamorph, but a human 

She was slender and young and naked, 
with thick, auburn hair, narrow shoulders, 
small, high breasts, and bright, playful eyes. 
She seemed altogether unafraid of him. a 
forest sprite who had obviously enjoyed 
leading him on this little chase. As he sfood 
gaping at her, she looked him over unhur- 

riedly and with an outburst of clear, tinkling 
laughter said. "You're all scratched and torn! 
Can't you run in the forest any better than 
that? You should take more care." 

"I didn't want you to get away." 

"Oh, I wasn't going to go far. You know, 
I was walching you for a long time before 
you noticed me. You're the man from the 
cabin, right?" 

"Yes. And you — where do you live?" 

"Here and there," she said airily. 

He stared at her in wonder. Her beauty 
delighted him, and her shamelessness as- 
tounded him. She might almost be a hal- 
lucination, he thought. Where had she come 
from? What was a human being, naked and 
alone, doing in this primordial jungle? 


Of course not, Nismile realized, with the 
sudden, sharp grief of a child who has been 
given some coveted treasure in a dream, 
only to wake aglow and perceive the sad 
reality. Remembering how effortlessly the 
Metamorph had mimicked him, Nismile 
comprehended the dismal probability: This 
was some prank, some masquerade. He 
studied her intently, seeking a sign of 
Metamorph identity, a flickering of the pro- 
jeclion, a trace of knife-sharp cheekbones 
and sloping eyes behind Ihe cheerfully im- 
pudent lace. She was convincingly human 
in every degree. And yel— how implausi- 
ble to meet one of his own kind here, how 
much more likely that she was a Shape- 
shifter, a deceiver- 
He did not want to believe that. He re- 
solved to meet the possibility of deception 
with a conscious act of faith, in the hope 
that that would make her be what she 
seemed to be. 

"What's your name?" he asked. 

"Sarise, And yours?" 

"Nismile. Where do you live?" 

"In the forest." 

"Then there's a human settlement not far 
from here?" 

She shrugged. "I live by myself." She 
came toward him. He felt his muscles 
growing taut as she moved closer, and his 
skin seemed to be blazing. She touched 
her fingers lightly to the cuts the vines had 
made on his arms and chest. "Don't those 
scratches bother you?" 

"They're beginning to. I should wash 

"Yes. Let's go back to the pool. I know 
a better way than the one you took. Follow 

trail. Gracefully she sprinled off. and he 
ran behind her, delighted by the ease of 
her movements, the play of muscles in her 
back and buttocks. He plunged into the 
pool a moment after she did. The chilly 
water soothed the stinging of the cuts. When 
they climbed out, he yearned to draw her 
to him and enclose her in his arms, but he 
did not dare. They sprawled on the mossy 
bank. There was mischief in her eyes. 

He said, "My cabin isn't far," 

"I know." 

"Would you like to go there?" 

"Some other time, Nismile." 

"All right. Some other lime." 

"Where do you come Irom?" she asked. 

"I was born on Castle Mount. Do you 
know where that is? I was a soul painter at 
the Coronal's court. Oo you know what soul 
painting is? It's done with the mind and a 
sensitive canvas, and— I could show you. 
I could paint you. Sarise. I take a close look 
at something, I seize its essence with my 
deepest consciousness, and then I go into 
a kind of trance, almost a waking dream, 
and I transform what I've seen into some- 
thing of my own and hurl it on the canvas. 
I capture the truth of it in one quick blaze 
of transference — " 

She scarcely seemed to have heard him. 

"Would you like to touch me, Nismile?" 

"Yes. Very much." 

The thick turquoise moss was like a car- 
pet. She rolled toward him. and his hand 
hovered above her body. He hesitated, for 
he was still certain that she was a Meta- 
morph playing some perverse Shapeshift- 
er game with him, and a heritage of thou- 
sands of years of dread and loathing 
surfaced in him. He was terrified of touch- 
ing her and discovering that her skin had 
the clammy, repugnant texture that he 
imagined Metamorph skin to have, or that 
she would shift and turn into a creature of 
alien form the moment she was in his arms. 
Her eyes were closed, her lips were parted, 
her tongue flickered between them like a 
serpent's; she was waiting In terror he 
forced his hand down to her breast. But 
her flesh was warm and yielding, and it felt 
very much the way the flesh of a young 
human woman should feel. With a seft, lit- 
tle cry she pressed herself into his em- 
brace. For a dismaying instant the gro- 
tesque image of a Metamorph rose in his 
mind, angular and long-limbed and nose- 
less, but he shoved the thought away 
fiercely and gave himself up entirely to her 
lithe and vigorous body. 

For a long time afterward they lay still. 

side by side, hands clasped, saying noth- 
ing, Even when a light rainshower came, 
they did not move but simply allowed the 
quick, sharp sprinkle to wash the sweat 
from their skins. He opened his eyes and 
found her watching him with keen curiosity. 

"I want to paint you," he said. 


"Not now. Tomorrow. You'll come to my 
cabin, and then I can—" 


"I haven't tried to paint in years. It's im- 
portant to me to begin again. And I want 
very much tc paint you." 

"I want very much not to be painted," 
she said. 


"No," she said gently. She rolled away 
and StdOd up. "Paint the jungle. Paint the 
podl. Don't paint me. all right. Nismile 7 All 

He made an unhappy gesture of ac- 

She said, "I have to leave now." 

"Will you tell me where you live?" 

"I already have. Here and there. In the 
forest. Why do you ask these questions?" 

"I want to be able to find you again. If 
you disappear, how will I know where to 

"I know where to find ydu." she said. 
"That's enough." 

"Will you come to me tomorrow? To my 

"I think I will." 

He took her hand and drew her toward 
him. But now she was hesitant, remote. The 
mystery surrounding her throbbed in his 
mind. She had told him nothing but her 
name. He found it too difficult to believe 
that she, like him, was a solitary of the jun- 
gle, wandering as the whim came, but he 
doubted that he could have failed to de- 
tect, in all these weeks, the existence of a 
human village nearby. The most likely ex- 
planation was that she was a Shapeshifter. 
embarked on an adventure with a human. 
Much as he resisted that idea, he was tod 
rational to reject it completely. But she 
looked human, she felt human, she acted 
human. How adept were these Meta- 
morphs at their transformations? He was 
templed to ask her outright whether his 
suspicions were correct, but thai was fool- 
ishness; she had answered nothing else, 
and surely she would not answer that. He 
kept his questions to himself She gently 
pulled her hand free of his grasp and 
stepped toward the fern-bordered trail and 
was gone. 

Nismile waited at his cabin all the next 
day. She did not come. It scarcely sur- 
prised him. Their meeting had been a 
dream, a fantasy, an interlude beyond time 
and space. He did not expect to see her 
again. Toward evening he drew a canvas 
from the pack he had brought with him and 
set it up, thinking he might paint fhe view 
from his cabin as twilight purpled the forest 
air. He studied the landscape a long while, 
testing the verticals of the slender trees 
against the heavy horizontal of a thick, 
sprawling, yellow-berried bush, and even- 
tually shook his head and put his canvas 
away. Nothing about this landscape needed 
to be captured by art In the morning, he 
thought, he would hike upstream past the 
meaddw to a place where fleshy, red suc- 
culents sprouted like rubbery spikes from 
a deep cleft in a great rock: a more prom- 
ising scene, perhaps. 

But in the morning he found excuses for 
delaying his departure, and by noon it 
seemed too late to go. He worked in his 
little garden plot instead— he had begun 
transplanting sdme of the shrubs whose 
fruits or greens he ate — and that occupied 
him for hours. In late afternoon a milky fog 
settled over the forest. He went inside, and 
a few minutes later there was a knock at 
the dodr. 

"I had given up hope." he told her. 

Sarise's forehead and brows were 
beaded with moisture. The fog. he thought, 
or maybe she had been dancing along the 
path. "I promised I'd come." she said softly. 


"This is yesterday,'' she said, laughing, 
and drew a flask from her robe. "You like 
wine? I found some of this. I had to go a 
long distance to get it. Yesterday," 

It was a young gray wine, the kind that 
tickles the tongue with its sparkle. The flask 
had no label, but he supposed it to be some 
Zimroel wine, unknown on Castle Mount. 
They drank it all, he more than she— she 
filled his cup again and again— and when 
it was gone, they went outside td make love 
on the cool, damp ground beside the stream 
and fell into a doze afterward. She woke 
him in some small hour of the night and led 
him to his bed. They spent the rest of the 
night pressed close to each other, and the 
next morning she showed no desire to 
leave. They went to the pool to begin the 
day with a swim; they embraced again on 
the turquoise moss She guided him to the 
gigantic red-barked tree where he had first 
seen her and pointed out to him a colossal 
yellow fruit, three or four yards across, that 

had fallen from one of its enormous 
branches. Nismile looked at it doubtfully. 
It had split open, and its interior was a 
scarlet, custardy stulf, studded with huge, 
gleaming black seeds. "Dwikka," she said. 
"It will make us drunk." She stripped off 
her robe and used it lo wrap great chunks 
of Ihe dwikka fruil, which Ihey carried back 
lo his cabin and spenl all morning ealing. 
They sang and laughed most of the after- 
noon. For dinner Ihey grilled some fish from 
Nismile's weir, and later, as they lay arm in 
arm watching the night descend, she asked 
him a thousand questions about his past 
life, his painting, his boyhood, his travels, 
about Castle Mount, the Fifty Cities, the Six 
Rivers, the royal court of Lord Thraym. the 
royal Castle of uncountable rooms. The 
questions came from her in a torrent, the 
newest one rushing forth almost before he 
had dealt with the last. Her bubbling curi- 
osity was inexhaustible. 

"What will we do tomorrow?" she asked 
at long last. 

So they became lovers. For the first few 
days they did little but eat and swim and 
embrace and devour Ihe intoxicating fruit 
of the dwikka tree. He ceased to fear, as 
he had at the beginning, that she would 
disappear as suddenly as she had come 
to him. Her flood of questions subsided, 
after a time, but even so he chose not to 
take his turn, preferring to leave her mys- 
teries unpierced. 

He could not shake his obsession with 
the idea that she was a fvletamorph. The 
thought chilled him — that her beauty was 
a lie, that behind it she was alien and gro- 
tesque—especially when he ran his hands 
over the cool, sweet smoothness of her 
thighs or breasts. He constantly had to fight 
away his suspicions. But they would not 
leave him. There were no human outposts 
in this part of Zimroel, and it was too im- 
plausible that this girl — for that was all she 
was, a girl — had elected to take up a her- 
mit's life here. Far more likely, Nismile 
thought, that she was native to this place, 
one of the unknown numbers of Shape- 
shifters who slipped like phantoms through 
these humid groves. When she slept, he 
sometimes watched her by faint starlight 
to see whether she began to lose human 
form. Always she remained as she was, 
and even so, he suspected her. 

And yet, and yet, and yet it was not in 
the nature ot Metamorphs to seek human 
company or to show warmth toward them. 
Humans had stolen this vast world of fvla- 
jipoor from them — coming here thousands 

of years ago, finding the Shapeshifters al- 
ready in decline, their mighty stone cities 
in ruins, and finishing the job by appropri- 
ating their most fertile lands, sequestering 
them in ever smaller regions, defeating their 
last uprising in Lord Stiamot's lime and 
forcing them, ultimately, into the Zimroel 
forests, out of sight, out of mind. To most 
people of Majipoor the Metamorphs were 
ghosts of a former era, revenants, unreal, 
legendary. Why would one seek him out in 
his seclusion, offer itself to him in so con- 
vincing a counterfeit of love, strive with such 
zeal to brighten his days and enliven his 
nights? In a moment of paranoia he imag- 
ined Sarise reverting in the darkness to her 
true shape and rising above him as he slept 
to plunge a gleaming dirk into his throat: 
revenge for the crimes of his ancestors. 
But what folly such fantasies were! If the 
Metamorphs wanted to murder him, they 
needed no such elaborate charades. 

It was almost as absurd to believe that 
she was a Metamorph as to believe that 
she was not. 

To put these matters from his mind, he 
resolved to take up his art again. On an 
unusually clear and sunny day he set out 
with Sarise for the rock of the red succu- 
lents, carrying a raw canvas. She watched, 
fascinated, as he prepared everything. 

"You do the painting entirely with your 
mind?" she asked. 

"Entirely. I fix the scene in my soul, I 
transform and rearrange and heighten, and 
then — you'll see." 

"Is it all right if I watch? I won't spoil it?" 

"Of course not." 

"But if someone else's mind gets into the 

"It can't happen. The canvases are tuned 
to me." He squinted, made frames with his 
fingers, moved a few feet this way and that. 
His throat was dry and his hands were 
quivering. So many years since he had last 
done this: Would he still have the gift? And 
the technique? He aligned the canvas and 
touched it in a preliminary way with his mind. 
The scene was a good one, vivid, bizarre, 
the color contrasts powerful ones, the 
compositional aspects challenging, that 
massive rock, those weird, meaty red 
plants, the tiny, yellow floral bracts at their 
tips, the forest-dappled sunlight. Yes, yes, 
it would work, it would amply serve as the 
vehicle through which he could convey the 
texture of this dense, tangled jungle, this 
place of shapeshifting— 

He closed his eyes. He entered trance. 
He hurled the picture to the canvas. 

Sarise uttered a small surprised cry. 

Nismile felt sweat break out all over; he 
staggered and fought for breath; after a 
moment he regained control and looked 
toward the canvas in front of him. 

"How beautiful!" Sarise murmured. 

But he was shaken by what he saw. Those 
dizzying diagonals — the blurred and 
streaked colors— the heavy greasy sky, 
hanging in sullen loops from the horizon — 
it looked nothing like the scene he had tried 
to capture, and, far more troublesome, 
nothing like the work of Therion Nismile. It 
was a dark and anguished painting, cor- 
rupted by unintended discords. 

"Don't you like it?" she asked. 

"It isn't what I had in mind." 

"Even so, how wonderful to make the 
picture come out on the canvas like that! 
And such a lovely thing!" 

"You think it's lovely?" 

"Yes, of course! Don't you?" 

He stared at her. 77iis? Lovely? Was she 
flattering him, or merely ignorant of pre- 
vailing tastes, or did she genuinely admire 
what he had done? This strange, tor- 
mented painting, this somber and alien 
work — 


"You don't like it." she said. Not a ques- 
tion this time. 

"I haven't painted in almost four years. 
Maybe I need to go about it slowly, to get 
the way of it right again — " 

"I spoiled your painting," Sarise said. 

"You? Don't be silly." 

"My mind got mixed into It, My way of 
seeing things." 

"I told you that the canvases are tuned 
to me alone. I could be in the midst of a 
thousand people, and none of them would 
affect the painting " 

"But perhaps I distracted you. I swerved 
your mind somehow." 


"I'll go for a walk. Paint another one while 
I'm gone." 

"No, Sarise. This one is splendid. The 
more I look at it, the more pleased I am. 
Come. Let's go home. Let's swim and eat 
some dwikka and make love. Yes?" 

He took the canvas from its mount and 
rolled it. But what she had said affected 
him more than he would admit. Some kind 
of strangeness had entered the painting, 
no doubt of it. What if she had managed 
somehow to taint it, her hidden Metamorph 
soul radiating its essence into his spirit, 
coloring the impulses of his mind with an 
alien hue — 

They walked downstream in silence. 
When they reached the meadow of the mud- 
lilies where Nismile had seen his first Meta- 
morph, he heard himself blurt, "Sarise, I 
have to ask you something." 


He could not halt himself. "You aren't hu- 
man, are you? You're realiy a Metamorph, 

She stared at him, wide-eyed, color ris- 
ing in her cheeks. 

"Are you serious?" 

He nodded. 

"Me a Metamorph?" She laughed, not 
very convincingly. "What a wild idea!" 

"Answer me. Sarise. Look into my eyes 
and answer me." 

"It's too foolish, Therion." 

"Please. Answer me." 

"You want me to prove I'm human? How 
could I?" 

"I want you to tell me that you're human. 
Or that you're something else." 

"I'm human," she said. 

"Can I believe that?" 

"I don't know. Can you? I've given you 
your answer." Her eyes flashed with mirth. 
"Don't I teel human? Don't I act human? 
Do I seem like an imitation?" 

"Perhaps I'm unable to tell." 

"Why do you think I'm a Metamorph?" 

"Because only Metamorphs live in this 
jungle," he said. "It seems — logical. Even 
though — " He faltered. "Look, I've had my 
answer. It was a stupid question and I'd 
like to drop the subject. All right?" 

"How strange you are! You must be an- 
gry. You do think I spoiled your painting." 

"That's not so." 

"You're a very poor liar. Therion." 

"All right. Something spoiled my paint- 
ing. I don't know what. It wasn't the paint- 
ing I intended." 

"Paint another one then." 

"I will. Let me paint you, Sarise." 

"I told you I didn't want to be painted." ■ 

"I need to. I need .to see what's in my 
own soul, and the only way I can know — " 

"Paint the dwikka tree, Therion. Paint the 

"Why not paint you?" 

"The idea makes me uncomfortable." 

"You aren't giving me a real answer. What 
is there about being painted that — " 

"Please, Therion." 

"Are you afraid I'll see you on the canvas 
in a way that you won't like? Is that it? That 
I'll get a different answer to my questions 
when I paint you?" 



"Let me paint you." 

"Give me a reason then." 

"I can't," she said. 

"Then you can't refuse." He drew a can- 
vas from his pack. "Here, in the meadow, 
now. Go on, Sarise. Stand beside the 
stream. It'll take only a moment — " 

"No, Therion." 

"If you love me, Sarise, let me paint you." 

It was a clumsy bit of blackmail, and it 
shamed him to have attempted it. And it 
angered her, for he saw a harsh glitter in 
her eyes that he had never seen there be- 
fore. They confronted each other for a tense 

Then she said in a cold, flat voice, "Not 
here. Therion. At the cabin. I'll let you paint 
me there, if you insist." 

Neither of them spoke on the way home. 

He was tempted to forget the whole thing. 
It seemed to him that he had imposed his 
will by force, that he had committed a sort 
of rape, and he almost wished he could 
retreat from the position he had won. But 
there would never be any going back to 
the old easy harmony between them, and 
he had to have the answers he needed. 
Uneasily he set about preparing a canvas. 

"Where shall I stand?" she asked. 

'Anywhere. By the stream. By the cabin." 

In a slouching, slack-limbed way she 
moved toward the cabin. He nodded and 
dispiritedly began the final steps before 
entering trance. Sarise glowered at him. 
Tears were welling in her eyes. 

"I love you." he cried abruptly, and went 
down into trance, and the last thing he saw 
before he closed his eyes was Sarise al- 
tering her pose, coming out of her moody 
slouch, squaring her shoulders, eyes sud- 
denly bright, smile flashing. 

When he opened his eyes, the painting 
was done and Sarise was staring timidly 
at him from the cabin door. 

"How is it?" she asked. 

"Come. See for yourself." 

She walked to his side. They examined 
the picture together, and after a moment 
Nismile slipped his arm around her shoul 
der. She shivered and moved closer to him 

The painting showed a woman with hu- 
man eyes and Metamorph mouth and nose. 
against a jagged and chaotic background 
of clashing reds and oranges and pinks. 

She said quietly, "Now do you know what 
you wanted to know?" 

"Was it you in the meadow? And the two 
other times?" 



"You interested me, Therion. I wanted to 
know all about you. I had never seen any- 
thing like you." 

"I still don't believe it," he whispered. 

She pointed toward the painting. "Be- 
lieve it. Therion." 

'No. No." 

'You have your answer now." 

'I know you're human. The painting lies." 

'No, Therion." 

'Prove it for me Change for me. Change 
now." He released her and stepped a short 
way back. "Do it. Change for me." 

She looked at him sadly. Then, without 
perceptible transition, she turned herself 
into a replica of him, as she had done once 
before: the final proof, the unanswerable 
answer. A muscle quivered wildly in his 
cheek. He watched her, and she changed 
again, this time into something terrifying 
and monstrous, a nightmarish, gray, pock- 
marked balloon of a thing with flabby skin 
and eyes like saucers and a hooked black 
beak; and from thai she went to the Meta- 
morph form, taller than he. hollow-chested 
and featureless, and then she was Sarise 
once more, cascades of auburn hair, del- 
icate hands, strong thighs. 

"No," he said. "Not that one. No more 

She became the Metamorph again. 

He nodded. "Yes. That's better. Stay that 
way. It's more beautiful." 

"Beautiful, Therion?" 

"I find you beautiful. Like this. As you 
really are. Deception is always ugly." 

He reached for her hand. It had six fin- 
gers, very long and narrow, without fin- 
gernails or visible joints. Her skin was silky 
and faintly glossy, and it felt not at all as 
he had expected. He ran his hands lightly 
over her slim, virtually fleshless body. She 
was altogether motionless. 

"I should go now," she said at last. 

"Stay with me. Live here with me." 

"Even now?" 

"Even now. In your true form." 

"You still want me?" 

"Very much," he said. "Will you stay?" 

She said, "When I first came to you, it 
was to watch you, to study you, to play with 
you, perhaps even to mock and hurt you. 
You are the enemy, Therion. Your kind must 
always be the enemy. But as we began to 
live together, I saw there was no reason to 
hate you. Not you, you as a special indi- 
vidual, do you understand?" 

It was the voice of Sarise coming from 
those alien lips. How strange! he thought. 

How much like a dream! 

She said, "I began to want to be with 
you. To make the game go on forever. But 
the game had to end. And yet 1 still want 
to be with you." 

"Then stay, Sarise." 

"Only if you truly want me." 

"I've told you that," 

"I don't horrify you?" 


"Paint me again, Therion. Show me with 
a painting. Show me love on the canvas. 
Therion, and then I'll stay." 

He painted her day after day, until he 
had used every canvas, and hung them ail 
about the interior of the cabin. Sarise and 
the dwikka tree. Sarise in the meadow. Sar- 
ise against the milky fog of evening. Sarise 
at twilight, green against purple. There was 
no way he could prepare more canvases. 
although he tried. It did not really matter. 
They began to go on long voyages of ex- 
ploration together, down one stream and 
another, into distant parts of the forest, and 
she showed him new trees and flowers. 
and the creatures of the jungle, the toothy 
lizards and the burrowing golden worms 
and the sinister, ponderous amorfibots 
sleeping away their days in muddy lakes. 
They said little to one another; the time for 
answering questions was over and words 
were no longer needed. 

Day slipped into day, week into week. 
and in this land of no seasons it was diffi- 
cult to measure the passing of time. Per- 
haps a month went by, perhaps six. They 
encountered no one else. The jungle was 
full ot Metamorphs, she told him, but they 
were keeping their distance, and she hoped 
they would leave them alone forever. 

One afternoon of steady drizzle he went 
out to check his traps, and when he re- 
turned an hour later, he knew at once that 
something was wrong. As he approached 
the cabin, four Metamorphs emerged. He 
felt sure that one was Sarise, but he could 
not tell which one. "Wait!" he cried as they 
moved past him. He ran after them. "What 
do you want with her 7 Let her go! Sarise? 
Sarise? Who are they? What do they want?" 

For just an instant one of the Meta- 
morphs flickered, and he saw the girl with 
the auburn hair, but only for an instant; then 
there were four Metamorphs again, gliding 
like ghosts toward the depths of the jungle. 
The rain grew more intense, and a heavy 
fog bank drifted in, cutting off all visibility. 
Nismile paused at the edge of the clearing, 
straining desperately for sounds over the 
patter of the rain and the loud throb of the 

stream. He imagined he heard weeping: 
he thought he heard a cry of pain, but it 
might have been any other sort of forest 
sound. There was no hope of following the 
Metamorphs into thai impenetrable zone 
of thick, white mist. 

He never saw Sarise again, or any other 
Metamorph. For a while he hoped he would 
come upon Shapeshifters in the forest and 
be slain by them with their little polished 
dirks, for the loneliness was intolerable now. 
But that did not happen, and when it be- 
came obvious that he was living in a sort 
of quarantine, cut off not only from Sar- 
ise — if she was still alive — but from the en- 
tire society of the Metamorph folk, he found 
himself unable to dwell in the clearing be- 
side the stream any longer. He rolled up 
his paintings of Sarise and carefully dis- 
mantled his cabin and began the long and 
perilous journey back to civilization. 

It was a week before his fiftieth birthday 
when he reached the borders of Castle 
Mount. In his absence, he discovered. Lord 
Thraym had become Pontifex. and the new 
Coronal was Lord Vildivar. a man of little 
sympathy for the arts. Nismile rented a stu- 
dio on the riverbank at Stee and began to 
paint again. He worked only from memory: 
dark and disturbing scenes of jungle life. 

often showing Metamorphs lurking in the 
middle distance. It was not the sort of work 
likely to be popular on the cheerful and 
airy world of Majipoor, and Nismile found 
few buyers at first. But in lime his paintings 
caught the fancy of the Duke of Qurain, 
who had begun to weary of sunny serenity 
and perfect proportion. Under the Duke's 
patronage, Nismile's work grew fashion- 
able, and in the later years of his life there 
was a ready market for everything he pro- 

He was widely imitated, though never 
successfully, and he was the subject of 
many critical essays and biographical 
studies. "Your paintings are so turbulent 
and strange." one scholar said to him. 
"Have you devised some method of work- 
ing from dreams?" 

"I work only from memory," said Nismile. 

"From painful memory, I would be so bo'd 
as to venture." 

"Not at all," answered Nismile. "All my 
work is intended to help me recapture a 
time of joy, a time of love, the happiest and 
most precious moment of my life." He stared 
past the questioner into distant mists, thick 
and soft as wool, thai swirled through 
lumps of tall, slender trees bound by a 
' network of vines. 

Her diplomatic mission 

was a pretense to get inside 

the Emperor's court 



I he foreign minister of 
the Empire of San Francisco was trying to 
sleep late. Last night had been a long one, a 
wild if not particularly gratifying party at the 
Baths, too much to drink, too much to smoke, 
and he had seen the dawn come up like 
thunder out of Oakland 'crost the Bay. Now 
the telephone was ringing. He integrated the 
first couple of rings nicely into his dream, but 
Ihe next one began to undermine his slum- 
ber, and the one after that woke him up. He 
groped for the receiver and, eyes still closed, 
managed to croak. "Christensen here." 

"Tom, are you awake? You don't sound 
awake. It's Morty. Tom. Wake up." 

The undersecretary for external affairs. 
Christensen sat up, rubbed his eyes, ran his 
tongue around his lips. Daylight was stream- 
ing into the room. His cats were glaring at 
him from the doorway. The little Siamese 
pawed daintily at her empty bowl and looked 


up expectantly. The fat Persian just sal. 


"I'm up! I'm up! What is it, Morty?" 

"I didn't mean to wake you. How was I sup- 
posed to know, one in the afternoon — " 

"What is it, Morty?" 

"We got a call from Monterey. There's an 
ambassador on the way up, and you've got 
lo meet with her." 

The foreign minister worked hard at 
clearing the fog from his brain. He was 
thirty-nine years old, and all-night parties 
took more out of him than they once had. 

"You do it, Morty." 

"You know I would, Tom. But I can't. You've 
got lo handle this one yourself. It's prime." 

"Prime? What kind of prime? You mean, 
like a great dope deal? Or are Ihey de- 
claring war on us?" 

"How would I know the details? The call 
came in. and Ihey said it was prime. Ms. 
Sawyer must confer with Mr. Christensen. 
It wouldn't involve dope, Tom. And it can't 
be war, either. Shit, why would Monterey 
want to make war on us? They've only got 
ten soldiers, I bet, unless they're drafting 
the Chicanos out of the Salinas calabozo. 
and besides — " 

"All right." Christensen's head was 
buzzing. "Go easy on the chatter. Okay? 
Where am I supposed to meet her?" 

"In Berkeley." 

"You're kidding." 

"She won't come into the city. She thinks 
it's too dangerous over here." 

"What do we do. kill ambassadors and 
barbecue them? She'll be safe here, and 
she knows it." 

"Look, I talked to her. She thinks the city 
is too crazy. She'll come as far as Berkeley, 
but that's it." 

"Tell her to go to hell." 

"Tom, Tom — " 

Christensen sighed. "Where in Berkeley 
will she be?" 

"The Claremont. al half past four." 

'Jesus," Christensen said, "How did you 
get me into this? All the way across to the 
East Bay to meel a lousy ambassador from 
Monterey! Let her come to San Francisco. 
This is the Empire, isn't it? They're only a 
stinking republic. Am I supposed to swim 
over to Oakland every time an envoy shows 
up and wiggles a finger? Some bozo from 
Fresno says boo. and I have to haul my ass 
out to the Valley, eh? Where does it stop? 
What kind of clout do I have, anyway?" 

"Tom — " 

"I'm sorry, Morty. I don't feel like a god- 
damned diplomat this morning," 

"It isn't morning anymore, Tom. But I'd 
do it for you if I could." 

"All right. All right. I didn't mean to yell 
at you. You make the ferry arrangements," 

"Ferry leaves at three-thirty. Chauffeur 
will pick you up at three, okay?" 

"Okay," Christensen said. "See if you can 
find out any more about all this, and have 
somebody call me back in an hour with a 
briefing, will you?" 

He fed the cat, showered, shaved, took 
a couple of pills, and brewed some coffee. 
At half past two the ministry called. No- 
body had any idea what the ambassador 
might want. Relations between San Fran- 
cisco and the Republic of Monterey were 
cordial just now. Ms. Sawyer lived in Pa- 
cific Grove and was a member of the Mon- 
terey Senate; that was all that was known 
about her. Some briefing, he thought. 

He went downstairs to wait for his chauf- 
feur. It was a late autumn day. bright and 
clear and cool. The rains hadn't begun yet, 
and Ihe streets looked dusfy. The foreign 
minister lived on Frederick Street, just off 
Cole, in an old white Victorian with a small 
front porch. He settled in on the steps, feel- 
ing wide awake but surly, and a few min- 
utes before three his car came putt-putt- 
ing up, a venerable gray Chevrolet with the 
arms of imperial San Francisco on its doors. 
The driver was Vietnamese, or maybe Thai. 
Christensen got in without a word, and off 
they went at an imperial velocity through 
the virtually empty streets, down lo Haight. 
eastward for a while, then onto Oak, up 
Van Ness, pas! the palace, where at this 
moment the Emperor Norton VII was prob- 
ably taking his imperial nap, and along Post 
and then Market to the ferry slip. 

The stump of ihe Bay Bridge glittered 
magically against the sharp blue sky. A 
small power cruiser was waiting for him. 
Christensen was silent during the slow, dull 
voyage. A chill wind cut through the Golden 
Gate and made him huddle info himself. 
He stared broodingly at Ihe low, rounded 
East Bay hills, dry and brown from a long 
summer of droughl. and thought about the 
permutations of fate that had transformed 
an adequate architect into the barely com- 
petent foreign minister of this barely com- 
petent little nation. The Empire of San 
Francisco, one of the early emperors had 
said, is the only country in history that was 
decadent from the day it was founded. 

At the Berkeley marina Christensen told 
the ferry skipper, "I don't know what time 
I'll be coming back. So no sense waiting, 
I'll phone in when I'm ready to go." 

Another imperial car took him up the hill- 
side to the sprawling nineteenth-century 
splendor of the Claremont Hotel, that vast, 
antiquated survivor of all the cataclysms. 
It was seedy now, the grounds a jungle, ivy 
almost to the tops of the palm trees, and 
yet it still looked fit lo be a palace, with 
hundreds of rooms and magnificent ban- 
quet halls. Christensen wondered how often 
it had guests. There wasn't much tourism 
these days. 

In the parking plaza outside the en- 
trance was a single car, a black-and-white 
California Highway Patrol job that had been 
decorated with Ihe insignia of the Republic 
of Monterey, a contorted cypress tree and 
a sea otter. A uniformed driver lounged 
against if, looking bored. "I'm Christen- 
sen," he told the man, 

"You the foreign minister?" 

"I'm not the Emperor Norton," 

"Come on. She's waiting in the bar." 

Ms. Sawyer stood up as he entered— a 
slender, dark-haired woman of about thirty, 
with cool, green eyes— and he flashed her 
a quick, professionally cordial smile, which 
she returned just as professionally. He did 
not feel at all cordial. 

"Senator Sawyer," he said. "I'm Tom 

"Glad to know you." She pivoted and 
gestured toward the huge picture window 
that ran the length of the bar. "I just got 
here. I've been admiring the view It's been 
years since I've been in the Bay Area." 

He nodded. From the cocktail lounge one 
could see the slopes of Berkeley, the bay, 
the ruined bridges, the still-imposing San 
Francisco skyline. Very nice. They took 
seats by Ihe window, and he beckoned to 
a waiter, who brought them drinks. 

"How was your drive up?" Christensen 

"No problems. We got stopped for 
speeding in San Jose, but I got out of it. 
They could see it was an official car, but 
they stopped us anyway." 

"The lousy bastards. They love to look 

"Things haven't been good between 
Monterey and San Jose all year. They're 
spoiling for trouble." 

"I hadn't heard," Christensen said. 

"We think they want to annex Santa Cruz. 
Naturally we can't put up with that. Santa 
Cruz is our buffer." 

He asked sharply, "Is that what you came 
here for, to ask our help against San Jose?" 

She stared at him in surprise. 'Are you 
in a hurry, Mr. Christensen?" 

"Not particularly." 

"You sound awfully impatient. We're still 
making preliminary conversation, having a 
drink, two diplomats playing the diplo- 
matic game. Isn't that so?" 


"I was telling you what happened to me 
on the way north. In response to your 
question. Then I was filling you in on cur- 
rent political developments. I didn't expect 
you to snap at me like that." 

"Did I snap?" 

"It certainly sounded like snapping to 
me," she said, with some annoyance. 

Christensen took a deep pull of his bour- 
bon -and -water and gave her a long, steady 
look. She met his gaze imperturbably. She 
looked composed, amused, and very, very 
tough. After a time, when some of the red 
haze of irrational anger and fatigue had 
cleared from his mind, he said quietly, "I 
had about four hours' sleep last night, and 
I wasn't expecting art envoy from Monterey 
today. I'm tired and edgy, and if I sounded 
impatient or harsh or snappish, I'm sorry." 

"It's all right. I understand." 

"Another bourbon or two and I'll be prop- 
erly unwound " He held his empty glass 
toward the hovering waiter. 'A refill for you, 
too?" he asked her. 

"Yes. Please." In a formal tone she said, 
"Is the Emperor in good health?" 

"Mot bad. He hasn't really been well for 
a couple of years, but he's holding his own. 
And President Morgan?" 

"Fine," she said. "Hunting wild boar in 
Big Sur this week." 

'A nice life it must be. President of Mon- 
terey. I've always liked Monterey. So much 
quieter and cleaner and more sensible 
down there than in San Francisco." 

"Too quiet sometimes I envy you the ex- 
citement here." 

"Yes, of course. The rapes, the mug- 
gings, the arson, the mass meetings, the 
race wars, the—" 

"Please," she said gently. 

He realized he had begun to rant. There 
was a throbbing behind his eyes. Reworked 
to gain control of himself. 

"Did my voice get too loud?" 

"You must be terribly tired. Look, we can 
confer in the morning, if you'd prefer. It isn't 
that urgent. Suppose we have dinner and 
not talk politics at all, and get rooms here, 
and tomorrow after breakfast we can — " 

"No," Christensen said. "My nerves are 
a little ragged, that's all. But I'll try to be 
more civil. And I'd rather not wait until to- 
morrow to find out what this is all about. 

Suppose you give me a precis of it now, 
and if it sounds too complicated, I'll sleep 
on it and we can discuss it in detail to- 
morrow. Yes?" 

"All right." She put her drink down and 
sat quite still, as if arranging her thoughts. 
At length she said, "The Republic of Mon- 
terey maintains close ties with the Free State 
of Mendocino. I understand that Mendo- 
cino and the Empire broke off relations a 
little while back." 

'A fishing dispute, nothing major." 

"But you have no direct contact with them 
right now. Therefore this should come as 
news to you. The Mendocino people have 
learned, and have communicated to our 
representative there, that an invasion of San 
Francisco is imminent." 

Christensen blinked twice. "By whom?" 

"The Realm of Wicca," she said. 

"Flying down trom Oregon on their 

"Please. I'm being serious." 

"Unless things have changed up there," 
Christensen said, "the Realm of Wicca is 
nonviolent, like all the neopagan states. As 
I understand it, they tend their farms and 
practice their little pagan rituals and do a 
lot of dancing around the Maypole and 
chanting and screwing. You expect me to 
believe that a bunch of gentle, goofy witch- 
es are going to make war on the Empire?" 

She said, "Not war. An invasion." 


"One of their high priests has pro- 
claimed San Francisco a holy place and 
has instructed them to come down here 
and build a Stonehenge in Golden Gate 
Park in time for proper celebration of the 
winter solstice. There are at least a quarter 
of a million neopagans in the Willamette 
Valley, and more than half of them are ex- 
pected to take part. According to our Men- 
docino man, the migration has already be- 
gun and thousands of Wiccans are spread 
out between Mount Shasta and Ukiah right 
now. The solstice is only seven weeks away. 
The Wiccans may be gentle, but you're 
going to have a hundred fifty thousand of 
them in San Francisco by the end of the 
month, pitching tents all over town." 

"Holy Jesus," Christensen muttered. 

"Can you feed that many strangers? Can 
you find room for them? Will San Francis- 
cans meet them with open arms? Do you 
think it'll be a love festival?" 

"It'll be a fucking massacre," Christen- 
sen said tonelessly. 

"Yes. The witches may be nonviolent, but 
they know how to practice self-defense. 

Once they're attacked, there'll be rivers of 

blood, and it won't all be Wiccan blood." 

Christensen's head was pounding again. 
She was absolutely right: chaos, strife, 
bloodshed. And a merry Christmas to all. 
He rubbed his aching forehead, turned 
away from her. and stared out at the deep- 
ening twilight and the sparkling lights of 
the city on the other side of the bay. A bleak, 
bitter depression was taking hold of his 
spirit. He signaled for another round of 
drinks. Then he said slowly, "They can't be 
allowed to enter the city. We'll need to close 
the imperial frontier and turn them back 
before they get as far as Santa Rosa. Let 
them build their goddamned Stonehenge 
in Sacramento if they like." His eyes flick- 
ered. He started to assemble ideas. "The 
Empire might just have enough troops to 
contain the Wiccans by itself, but I think 
this is best handled as a regional problem. 
We'll call in forces from our allies as far out 
as Petaluma and Napa and Palo Alto. I don't 
imagine we can expect much help from 
the Free State or from San Jose. And of 
course Monterey isn't much of a military 
power, but still — " 

"We are willing to help," Ms. Sawyer said. 

"To what extent?" 

"We aren't set up for much actual war- 
fare, but we have access to our own alli- 
ances from Salinas down to Paso Robles. 
and we could call up, say, five thousand 
troops all told. Would that help?" 

"That would help," Christensen said. 

"It shouldn't be necessary for there to 
be any combat. With the imperial border 
sealed and troops posted along the line 
from Guerneville to Sacramento, the Wic- 
cans won't force the issue. They'll revise 
their revelation and celebrate the solstice 
somewhere else." 

"Yes," he said, "I think you're right." He 
leaned toward her and asked, "Why is 
Monterey willing to help us?" 

"We have problems of our own brew- 
ing — with San Jose. If we are seen making 
a conspicuous gesture of solidarity with the 
Empire, it might discourage San Jose from 
proceeding with its notion of annexing Santa 
Cruz. That amounts to an act of war against 
us. Surely San Jose isn't interested in mak- 
ing any moves that will bring the Empire 
down on its back." 

She wasn't subtle, but she was effective. 
Quid pro quo. we help you keep the witches 
out, you help us keep San Jose in line, and 
at! remains well without a shot being fired. 
These goddamned little nations.be thought, 
these absurd jerkwater sovereignties, with 


their wars and alliances and shifting con- 
federations. It was like a game, like play- 
ground politics. Except that it was real. What 
had fallen apart was not going to be put 
back together, not (or a long while, and this 
miniaturized Wettpolitik was the realest 
reality there was just now. At least things 
were saner in Northern California than they 
were down south, where Los Angeles was 
gobbling everything and there were ru- 
mors that Pasadena had the Bomb. No- 
body had to contend with that up here. 

Christensen said. "I'll have to propose 
all this to the Defense Ministry, of course. 
And get the Emperor's approval. But ba- 
sically I agree with your thinking." 

"I'm so pleased." 

'And I'm very glad that you took the trou- 
ble to travel up from Monterey to make these 
matters clear to us." 

"Merely a case of enlightened self-inter- 
est," Ms. Sawyer said. 

"Mmm. Yes." He found himself studying 
the sharp planes of her cheekbones, the 
delicate arch of her eyebrows. Mot only was 
she cool and competent, Christensen 
thought, but now that the business part of 
their meeting was over, he was coming to 
notice that she was a very attractive woman 
and that he was not as tired as he had 

thought he was. Did international politics 
allow room for a little recreational hanky- 
panky? Melternich hadn't jumped into bed 

with Talleyrand, nor Kissinger with Indira 
Gandhi, but times had changed, after all, 
and— no. No. He choked off that entire line 
of thought. In these shabby days they might 
all be children playing at being grown-ups. 
but nevertheless international politics still 
had its code, and this was a meeting ot 
diplomats, not a blind date or a singles- 
bar pickup. You will steep in your own bed 
tonight, he told himself, and you will sleep 

All the same he said. "It's past six o'clock. 
Shall we have dinner together before I go 
back to the city?" 

"I'd love to." 

"I don't know much about Berkeley res- 
taurants. We're probably better off eating 
right here." 

"I think that's best," she said. 

They were the only ones in the hotel's 
enormous dining room, A staff of three 
waited on them as if they were the most 
important people who had ever dined there. 
And dinner turned out to be quite decent, 
he thought— calamari and abalone and 
sand dabs and grilled thresher shark, 
washed down with a dazzling bottle of Napa 

Chardonnay. Even though ihe world had 
ended, it remained possible to eat very well 
in the Bay Area, and Ihe breakdown of so- 
ciety had not only reduced maritime pol- 
lution but also made local seafood much 
more readily available for local consump- 
tion. There wasn't much of an export trade 
possible with eleven heavily guarded na- 
tional boundaries and eleven sets of cus- 
toms barriers between San Francisco and 
Los Angeles. 

Dinner conversation was light, re- 
laxed — diplomatic chitchat, gossip about 
events in remote territories, reports about 
the Voodoo principality expanding out of 
New Orleans and the Sioux conquests in 
Wyoming and the Prohibition War now going 
on in what used to be Kentucky. There was 
a bison herd again on the Great Plains, she 
said, close to a million head. He told her 
what he had heard about the Suicide Peo- 
ple, who ruled between San Diego and Ti- 
juana, and about King Barnum & Bailey III, 
who governed in northern Florida with the 
aid of a court of circus freaks. She smiled 
and said. "How can they tell the freaks from 
the ordinary people? The whole world's a 
circus now. isn't it?" 

He shook his head and replied. "No. a 
zoo." and he beckoned the waiter for more 

wine. He did not ask her about internal 
matters in Monterey, and she tactfully 
stayed away from the domestic problems 
of the Empire of San Francisco. He was 
feeling easy, buoyant a little drunk, more 
than a little drunk; to have to answer ques- 
tions now about the little rebellion that had 
been suppressed in Sausalito or the 
secessionist thing in Walnut Creek would 
be a bringdown, and bad for the digestion. 
About half past eight he said, "You aren'i 
going back to Monterey tonight, are you?" 
"God, no! It's a five-hour drive, assuming 
no more troubles with the San Jose High- 
way Patrol, And the road's so bad below 
Watsonville that only a lunatic would drive it 
at night. I'll stay here at the Claremont." 

"Good. Let me put it on the imperial ac- 
count," he said. 
"That isn't necessary. We — " 
"The hotel is always glad to oblige the 
government and its guests," 

Ms, Sawyer shrugged. "Very well. Well 
reciprocate when you come to Monterey." 

And then her manner suddenly changed. 
She shifted in her seat and fidgeted and 
played with her silverware, looking awk- 
ward and ill at ease. Some new and big 
topic was obviously about to be intro- 
duced, and Christensen guessed thai she 
was going to ask him to spend the night 
with her. In a fraction of a second he ran 
Ihrough all the possible merits and de- 
merits of that, and came out on the plus 
side, and had his answer ready when she 
said, "Tom, can I ask a big favor?" 

Which threw him completely off balance. 
Whatever was coming, it certainly wasn't 
what he was expecting. 
"I'll do my best." 

"I'd like an audience with the Emperor." 

"Not on official business. I know the Em- 
peror talks business only wifh his ministers 
and privy councillors. But 1 want to see him. 
that's all." Color came to her cheeks. 
"Doesn't it sound silly? But it's something 
I've always dreamed of, a kind of adoles- 
cent fantasy. To be in San Francisco, to be 
shown into the imperial throne room, to kiss 
his ring, all that pomp and circumstance. 
I want it, Tom. Just to be there, to see him. 
Do you think you could manage that?" 

He was astounded. The facade of cool, 
tough competence had dropped away from 
her, revealing unanticipated absurdity. He 
did not know what to answer. 

She said. "Monterey's such a poky little 
place. It's just a town. We call ourselves a 

republic, but we aren't much of anything. 
And I call myself a senator and a diplomat, 
but I've never really been anywhere San 
Francisco two or three limes when I was a 
girl. San Jose a few times. My mother was 
in Los Angeles once, but I haven't been 
anywhere. And to go home saying that I 
had seen the Emperor — " Her eyes spar- 
kled, "You're really taken aback, aren't you? 
You thought I was all ice and microproces- 
sors, and instead I'm only a hick, right? But 
you're being very nice. You aren't even 
laughing at me. Will you get me an audi- 
ence with the Emperor for tomorrow?" 

"I thought you were afraid to go into San 

She looked abashed. "That was just a 
ploy. To make you come over here, to get 
you to take me seriously and put yourself 
out a little. Diplomatic wiles. Im sorry abou! 
that. The word was that you were snotty, that 
you had to be met with strength or you'd be 
impossible to deal with. But you aren't like 
that at all. Tom, I want to see the Emperor. 
He does give audiences, doesn't he?" 

"In a manner of speaking. I suppose it 
could be done." 

"Oh. would you? Tomorrow?" 

"Why wait for tomorrow?" 

"Are you being sarcastic?" 

"Not at all." Christensen said, "This is 
San Francisco. The Emperor keeps weird 
hours just like the rest of us. I'll phone over 
there and see if we can be received." He 
hesitated. "I'm afraid it won't be what you're 

"What do you mean? In what way?" 

"The pomp, the circumstance. You're 
going to be disappointed. You may be bet- 
ter off not meeting him, actually.' Stick to 
your fantasy of imperial majesty. Seriously, 
I'll get you an audience if you insist, but I 
don't think it's a great idea." 

"Can you be more specific?" 


"I still want to see him. Regardless." 

He left the dining room and, with mis- 
givings, began arranging things. The tele- 
phone system was working sluggishly that 
evening, and it took him fifteen minutes to 
set the whole thing up, but there were no 
serious obstacles. He returned to her and 
said, "The ferry will pick us up at the mari- 
na in about an hour. There'll be a car wait- 
ing on the San Francisco side. The Em- 
peror will be available for viewing around 
midnight. I tell you that you're not going to 
enjoy this. The Emperor is old, and he's 
been sick; he isn't a very interesting per- 
son to meet, as I'm sure you would agree." 

"All the same," she said. "The one thing 
I wanted, when I volunteered to be the en- 
voy, was an imperial audience. Please don't 
discourage me," 

'As you wish. Shall we have another 

"How about these?" She produced an 
enameled cigarette case. "Humboldt 
County's finest. Gift of the Free State." 

He smiled and nodded and took the joint 
from her. It was elegantly manufactured, 
fine cockleshell paper, gold monogram, 
igniter cap, even a filter. Everything else 
has come apart, he thought, but the tech- 
nology of marijuana is at its highest point 
in history. He flicked the cap, took a deep 
drag, passed it to her The effect was in- 
stantaneous, a new high cutting through 
the wooze of bourbon and wine and brandy 
already in his brain, clearing it. expanding 
his limp and sagging soul. When they were 
finished with it, they floated out of the hotel. 
His driver and hers were still waiting in the 
parking lot. Christensen dismissed his, and 
they took the Republic of Monterey car 
down the slopes of Berkeley to the marina. 
The boat from San Francisco was late. They 
stood around shivering at the ferry slip for 
twenty minutes, peering bleakly across at 
the glittering lights of the far-off city. Nei- 
ther of them was dressed for the nighttime 
chill, and he was tempted to pull her close 
and hold her in his arms, but he did not. 
There was a boundary he was not yet will- 
ing to cross. Hell, he thought, I don't even 
know her first name. 

It was nearly eleven by the time they 
reached San Francisco. 

An ofticial car was parked at the pier. 
The driver hopped out, saluting, bustling 
about — one of those preposterous little civil- 
service types, doubtless keenly honored 
to be taxiing bigwigs around late at night. 
He wore the red-and-gold uniform of the 
imperial dragoons, a little frayed at one el- 
bow. The car coughed and sputtered and 
reluctantly lurched into life, up Market Street 
to Van Ness and then north to the palace. 
Ms. Sawyer's eyes were wide, and she 
stared at the ancient high-rises along Van 
Ness as if they were cathedrals. 

When they came to the Civic Center area, 
she gasped, obviously overwhelmed by the 
majesty of everything, the shattered hulk 
of the Symphony Hall, the Museum of Mod- 
ern Art, the great dome of City Hall, and 
the Imperial Palace itself, awesome, im- 
posing, a splendid, many-columned build- 
ing that long ago had been the War Me- 
morial Opera House. With the envoy from 

the Republic of Monterey at his elbow. 
Christensen marched up the steps ol the 
palace and through the center doors into 
the lobby, where a great many ot the rank- 
ing ministers and plenipotentiaries of the 
Empire were assembled. "How absolutely 
marvelous." Ms. Sawyer murmured. Smil- 
ing graciously, bowing, nodding, Christen- 
sen pointed out the notables, the defense 
minister, the minister of finance, the min- 
ister of suburban affairs, the chief justice, 
the minister of transportation. 

Precisely at midnight there was a grand 
flourish of trumpets and the door to the 
throne room opened. Christensen offered 
Ms. Sawyer his arm; together they made 
the long journey down the center aisle and 
up the ramp to the stage, where the im- 
perial Ihrone. a resplendent thing of rhine- 
stones and foil, glittered brilliantly under 
the spotlights. Ms. Sawyer was wonder- 
struck. She pointed toward the six gigantic 
portraits suspended high over the stage 
and whispered a question, and Christen- 
sen replied. "The first six emperors. And 
here comes the seventh one." 

"Oh." she gasped. But was it awe. sur- 
prise, or disgust? 

He was in his full regalia, the scarlet robe, 
the bright green tunic with ermine trim, the 
gold chains. But he was wobbly and tot- 
tering, a clumsy, staggering figure, gray- 
faced and feeble, supported on one side 
by Mike Schiff. the Imperial Chamberlain, 
and on the other by the Grand Sergeanl- 
at-Arms. Terry Coleman. He was not so 
much leaning on them as being dragged 
by them. Bringing up the rear of the 
procession were two sleek, pretty boys, 
one black and one Chinese, carrying the 
orb, the scepter, and the massive crown. 
Ms. Sawyer's fingers tightened on Chris- 
tensen's forearm, and he heard her catch 
her breath as the Emperor, in the process 
of being lowered into his throne, went 
boneless and nearly spilled to the floor. 
Somehow the Imperial Chamberlain and 
the Grand Sergeant-at-Arms settled him 
properly in place, balanced the crown on 
his head, and stuffed the orb and scepter 
into his trembling hands. "His Imperial 
Majesty, Norton the Seventh of San Fran- 
cisco!" cried Mike Schiff in a magnificent 
voice that went booming up to the highest 
balcony. The Emperor giggled. 

"Come on," Christensen whispered and 
led her forward. 

The old man was really in terrible shape. 
It was weeks since Christensen had last 
seen him, and by now he looked like some- 

thing dragged from the crypt, slack-jawed, 
drooling, vacant-eyed, utterly burned out. 
The envoy from Monterey seemed to draw 
back, tense and rigid, repelled, unable or 
unwilling to go closer but Christensen per- 
sisted, urging her onward until she was no 
more than a dozen feet from the throne. A 
sickly-sweet, vaguely familiar odor ema- 
nated from the old man. 

"What do I do?" she asked, panicking. 

"When I introduce you. go forward, curt- 
sey if you know how. touch ihe orb. Then 
step back. That's all 

She nodded. 

Christensen said. Your Maiesty. the am- 
bassador from the Republic of Monterey. 
Senator Sawyer, to pay her respects." 

Trembling, she went to him. curtseyed, 
touched the orb As she backed away, she 
nearly fell, but Christensen came smoothly 
forward and steadied her. The Emperor 
giggled again, a shrill, horrific cackle 
Slowly, carefully. Christensen guided the 
shaken Ms. Sawyer from the stage. 

"How long has he been like that?" 

"Two years, three, maybe more. Com- 
pletely senile. Not even housebroken any- 
more. You could probably tell. I'm sorry. I 
told you you'd be better off skipping this. 
I'm enormously sorry. Ms.— Ms— what's 
your first name, anyway?" 

"Elaine. " 

"Let's get out ol here. Elaine. Yes?" 

"Yes. Please." 

clambering up onto the stage now. one with 
a guitar, one with juggler's clubs. The im- 
perial giggle pierced the air again and 
again, becoming rasping and wild. The im- 
perial levee would go on half the night. Em- 
peror Norton VII was one of San Francis- 
cos most popular amusements. 

"Now you know." Christensen said. 

"How does the Empire function, if the 
Emperor is crazy?" 

"We manage. We do our best without 
him. The Romans managed it with Caligula. 
Norton's not half as bad as Caligula Not a 
tenth. Will you tell everyone in Monterey?" 

"I think not, We believe in the power of 
the Empire and in the grandeur of the Em- 
peror. Best not to disturb that faith." 

"Quite right," said Christensen, 

They emerged into the clear, cold night. 

Christensen said. "I'll ride back to Ihe 
ferry slip with you before I go home." 

"Where do you live?" 

"Out near Golden Gate Park," 

She looked up at him and moistened her 

lips. "I don't want to ride across the bay in 
the dark, alone, at this hour of the night. Is 
it all right if I go home with you?' 

"Sure." he said. 

They got into the car. "Frederick Street." 
he told the driver, "between Clayton and 

The Irip took twenty minutes. Neither of 
them spoke. He knew what she was think- 
ing about: Ihe senile Emperor, dribbling and 
babbling under the bright spotlights. The 
mighty Norton VII. ruler of everything from 
San Rafael to San Mateo, from Half Moon 
Bay to Walnut Creek. Such is pomp and 
circumstance in imperial San Francisco in 
these latter days of Western civilization. 
Christensen sent the driver away, and they 
went upstairs. The cats were hungry again. 

"It's a lovely apartment," she told him. 

"Three rooms, bath, hot and cold run- 
ning water. Not bad for a mere foreign min- 
ister. Some of the boys have suites at the 
palace, but I like it belter here." He opened 
the door to the deck and stepped outside. 
Somehow, now that he was home. Ihe night 
was not so cold. He thought about the 
Realm ot Wicca, far off up there in green, 
happy Oregon, sending a hundred fifty 
thousand kindly goddess-worshiping neo- 
pagans down here to celebrate the rebirth 
of the sun. A nuisance, a mess, a head- 
ache. Tomorrow he'd have to call a meet- 
ing of the Cabinet, when everybody had 
sobered up. and start the wheels turning, 
and probably he'd have to make trips to 
places like Petaluma and Palo Alto to get 
the alliance flanged together. Damn. But it 
was his job. Someone had to carry Ihe load. 

He slipped his arm around the slender 
woman from Monterey. 

"The poor Emperor." she said softly 

"Yes." he agreed. "The poor Emperor. 
Poor everybody." 

He looked toward the east. In a few hours 
the sun would be coming up over that hill, 
out of the place that used to be the United 
States ol America and now was a thou- 
sand, thousand crazy, fractured, frag- 
mented entities. Christensen shook his 
head. The Grand Duchy of Chicago, he 
thought. The Holy Carolina Confederation. 
The Three Kingdoms of New York The Em- 
pire of San Francisco. No use getting up- 
set — much too late for getting upset. You 
played the hand that was dealt you. and 
you did your best, and you carved little 
islands of safety out of the night. Turning 
to her. he said. "I'm glad you came home 
with me tonight " He brushed his lips lightly 
against hers. "Come. Let's go inside." 



More brightly than any other writer working in the genre ot 
imaginative literature, Robert Silverberg reflects the con- 
science of our limes. 

Beginning his career in the fifties. Silverberg was a perfect 
manifestation both of the emergence of science fiction as a 
legitimate art form and the prevailing altitude of young peo- 
ple in America that success was the primary goal for an 
artist. If his early work is marked by a cool intelligence and 
an emphasis on solving the puzzle-problems se! up by plot, 
it is likely as much a resonance with that period in our recent 
history when distancing from social commitment was the or- 
der of the day as it was the influence of John W. Campbell, 
who, as the most prominent editor of his era, set ihe param- 
eters of the genre as consistent wilh his own concerns. 

But in the mid- to late-sixties, beginning with such novels 
as Thorns, Nightwings, The Masks of Time, Up ihe Line, and 
The Man in the Maze, Silverberg's legendary prolificify was 
turned almosl feverishly to reinterpretaiions of the effects on 
human beings of runaway technology in a world whose soul 
was in peril. In those novels and the uncounted short stories 
that filled the chinks in the wall of oeuvre he was creating. 
Silverberg began to reach out through the veil of his intellec- 
tual solitude to touch that universal human spirit all serious 
artists must, inevitably, come to grips with. 

From 1970 to 1974. a time of upheaval and metamorphosis 
in America. Silverberg's work reflected Ihe angst and morlal 
dreads of the world around him. Massive changes over a 
decade had altered his view of his species, and of himself: 
and Ihe work deall more impressively than that of any other 
writer of the time with the great questions we had begun 
to ask ourselves. Downward to the Earth, The World Inside. 
Tower of Glass. Son of Man. A Time Of Changes. Dying Inside. 
and The Stochastic Man— among a flood of others- 
became deeply troubling icons for a generation of readers 
learning not only to live decently in their own skins, but who 
were at last coming to realize they were part of a human 
chain, each link of which was commanded to ask for whom 
the bell tolls. 

In 1974 Silverberg was lashed into a realization that being 
poini man for the human condition can be dangerous in (he 
extreme. With the end of the Vietnam War. the Watergate 
scandal, the years of civil unrest rumbling to a close, America 
sought surcease Weary from a decade of Hying to reestab- 
lish pride in being a nation flawed but essentially humane, 
exhausted from the day-after-day struggle to banish the 
monsters in our midst. America fell gladly into the arms of 
trivial art: and the fickle audience decided it could not handle 
the deep-breathing demands Silverberg's uncompromising 
work placed on them Turning their eyes back to what seemed 
(foolishly) an idyllic time, the audience wallowed in escapism 
of a sorl lhat excluded the nourishmenl of spirit, the demand 
for persona! responsibility. Silverberg proffered. 

And so he went away. For five years he was not heard 
from, and the empty dreams of elfin creatures and unicorns 
held sophomoric sway over Silverberg's former constituency. 

Those who knew him intimately were not insensitive to his 
pain. He went to the earth and he dined well and he main- 
tained close friendships: but despite the sheen of compla- 
cency and comfort, it was obvious the surface was pitted 
with anguish. Beyond the gate there was only silence. 

But as the times send some great artists underground to 
replenish their energies — often against their will — so Ihe 
pressures of a changing world call those readers of the runes 
back when their time is come again. And as the eighties 
dawned. Silverberg made his resurgence Invigorated, re- 
newed, at once more thoughtful and more vulnerable, per- 
haps more human at having discovered he was not beyond 
the reach of rust, he has returned to the world of imaginative 
literature stronger and more important to our needs. 

Reflecting in his ipseity a thirty-year history of science fic- 
tion, and the scarred American character. Robert Silverberg 
returns to us larger than at his beginning or his leave-taking; 
wiser and more decent. Able to tell us thai even when dark 
wings close down Ihe sky, that the human spirit will prevail 
. . . il we but accept our kinship with seas and stones and 
the ghosts of our past. 



he first volume of The Best of 
Omni Science Fiction was published in April 1980. Its success and that 
of volume two suggested that vast numbers of new readers were being 
introduced to the subject. To give this growing audience a sense of 
literary perspective, a program of publishing SF classics was begun. 
Thus, in volume three appeared "The Cure" by Lewis Padgett (a pseu- 
donym of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore). It had been first published in 
1945 in Astounding Science Fiction. 

For volume four there were two classics: "Fondly Fahrenheit," ranked 
among the very greatest SF stories and first published in 1954, by Alfred 
Bester and "My Lady of the Psychiatric Sorrows," a poignant, post- 
holocaust piece first published in 1977, by Brian Aldiss. 

The idea has seemed such a good one that for this volume, once 
again, two classics are presented. They are "Helen O'Loy" (1938), a 
story of boy makes android, by Lester del Rey and "Down There" 
(1973), a clever encapsulation of the conflict between dehumanization 
and passion, by Damon Knight. 

For those stimulated by these stories to the extent that they wish to 
pursue readings in the SF canon further, there are several paperback 
anthologies. Among them are two four-volume sets — The Road to Sci- 
ence Fiction (Mentor, New American Library) edited and annotated by 
James Gunn and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Avon) edited var- 
iously by Robert Silverberg, Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke and George 
W. Proctor. An excellent companion to these anthologies is A Reader's 
Guide to Science Fiction (Facts on File) edited by Baird Searles, et al. 

Since artwork is and has been so important to science fiction, this 
classic section features a pictorial by Chesley Bonestell. He is renowned 
for his space paintings, many of which appeared as illustrations for 
covers of SF magazines. The pictorial reprinted here originally ap- 
peared in the February 1980 issue of Omni. 

He tried to stop her from kissing 

him . . . but she was powered by an atomotor 



I am an old man now. but I can still see 
Helen as Dave unpacked her, and still hear 
him gasp as he looked her over. 

"Man, isn't she a beauty?" 

She was beautiful, a dream in spun plas- 
tics and metals, something Keats might 
have seen dimly when he wrote his sonnet. 
If Helen of Troy had looked like that, the 
Greeks must have been pikers when they 
launched only a thousand ships; at least. 
that's what I told Dave. 

"Helen ot Troy, eh?" He looked at her 
tag. 'At least it beats this thing— K2W88. 
Helen . . . Mmmm . . . Helen of Alloy." 

"Not much swing to that, Dave. Too many 
unstressed syllables in the middle. How 
about Helen O'Loy?" 

"Helen O'Loy she is. Phil." And that's how 
it began — one part beauty, one part dream, 
one part science; add a stereo broadcast, 
stir mechanically, and the result is chaos. 

Dave and I hadn't gone to college to- 
gether, but when I came to Messina to 
practice medicine, I found him downstairs 
in a little robot repair shop. After that, we 
began to pal around, and when I started 
going with one twin, he found the other 
equally attractive, so we made it a pleas- 
ant foursome. 

When our business grew better, we 
rented a house near the rocket field — noisy 
but cheap, and the rockets discouraged 
apartment building. We like room enough 
to stretch ourselves. I suppose, if we hadn't 
quarreled with them, we'd have married 
the twins in time. But Dave wanted to look 
over the latest Venus-rocket attempt when 
his twin wanted to see a display stereo 
starring Larry Ainslee, and they were both 
stubborn. From then on, we forgot the girls 


and spent our evenings at home. 

But it wasn't until Lena put vanilla on our 
steak instead of salt that we got off on the 
subject of emotions and robots. While Dave 
was dissecting Lena to find the trouble, we 
naturally mulled over the future of the 
mechs. He was sure that the robots would 
beat men some day, and I couldn't see it. 

"Look here, Dave," I argued. "You know 
Lena doesn't think— not really. When those 
wires crossed, she could have corrected 
herself. But she didn't bother; she followed 
the mechanical impulse. A man might have 
reached for the vanilla, but when he saw it 
in his hand, he'd have stopped. Lena has 
sense enough, but she has no emotions, 
no consciousness of self." 

"All right, that's the big trouble with the 
mechs now. But we'll get around it, put in 
some mechanical emotions, or some- 
thing." He screwed Lena's head back on, 
turned on her juice."Go back to work, Lena, 
it's nineteen o'clock." 

Now I specialized in endocrinology and 
related subjects. I wasn't exactly a psy- 
chologist, but I did understand the glands, 
secretions, hormones, and miscellanies that 
are the physical causes of emotions. It took 
medical science three hundred years to 
find out how and why they worked, and I 
couldn't see men duplicating them me- 
chanically in much less time. 

I brought home books and papers to 
prove it, and Dave quoted the invention of 
memory coils and veritoid eyes. During that 
year we swapped knowledge until Dave 
knew the whole theory of endocrinology, 
and I could have made Lena from memory. 
The more we talked, the less sure I grew 
about the impossibility of Homo mecha- 

nensis as the attainable, perfect type. 

Poor Lena. Her cuproberyl body spent 
half its lime in scattered pieces. Our first 
attempts were successful only in getting 
her to serve fried brushes for breaklast and 
wash the dishes in oleo oil. Then one day 
she cooked a perfect dinner with six wires 
crossed, and Dave was in ecstasy. 

He worked all night on her wiring, put in 
a new coil, and taught her a fresh set of 
words. And the next day she flew into a 
tantrum and swore vigorously at us when 
we told her she wasn't doing her work right. 

"It's a lie," she yelled, shaking a suction 
brush. "You're all liars. If you so-and-so's 
would leave me whole long enough. I might 
gel something done around the place." 

When we calmed her temper and got 
her back to work, Dave ushered me into 
the study. "Not taking any chances with 
Lena," he explained. "We'll have to cut out 
that adrenal pack and restore her to nor- 
malcy. But we've got to get a better robot. 
A housemaid mech isn't complex enough." 

"How about Dillard's new utility models? 
They seem to combine everything in one." 

"Exactly. Even so, we'll need a special 
one built to order, with a full range of mem- 
ory coils. And out of respect to old Lena, 
let's get a female case for iis works." 

The result, of course, was Helen. The 
Dillard people had performed a miracle and 
put all the works in a girl-modeled case. 
Even the plastic and mbberite face was 
designed tor flexibility to express emo- 
tions, and she was complete with tear 
glands and taste buds, ready to simulate 
every human action, from breathing to 
pulling hair. The bill they sent with her was 
another miracle, but Dave and I scraped it 
together; we had to turn Lena over to an 
exchange to complete it, though, and 
thereafter we ate out. 

I'd performed plenty of delicate opera- 
lions on living tissues, and some of them 
had been tricky, but I still felt like a premed 
student as we opened the front plate of her 
torso and began to sever the leads of her 
"nerves." Dave's mechanical glands were 
all prepared, complex little bundles of ra- 
dio tubes and wires that heterodyned on 
the electrical thought impulses and dis- 
torted them as adrenaline distorts the re- 
action of human minds. 

Instead of sleeping that night, we pored 
over the schematic diagrams of her struc- 
tures, tracing the thoughts through mazes 
of her wiring, severing the leaders, im- 
planting the heterones, as Dave called 
them. And while we worked, a mechanical 

tape fed carefully prepared thoughts of 
consciousness and awareness of life and 
feeling into an auxiliary memory coil. Dave 
believed in leaving nothing to chance. 

It was growing light as we finished, ex- 
hausted and exultant. All that remained was 
the starting of her electrical power; like all 
the Dillard mechs. she was equipped with 
a tiny atomotor instead of batteries, and 
once started would need no further atten- 
tion in that regard. 

Dave refused to turn her on. "Wait until 
we've slept and rested," he advised "I'm 
as eager to try her as you are, but we can't 
do much studying with our minds half dead. 
Turn in, and we'll leave Helen until later" 

Even fhough we were both reluctant to 
follow it, we knew the idea was sound. We 
turned in, and sleep hit us before the air- 
conditioner could cut down to sleeping 
temperature. And then Dave was pound- 
ing on my shoulders. 

"Phil! Hey, snap out of it!" 

I groaned, turned over, and faced him. 
"Well? . . . Uh! What is it? Did Helen—" 

"No, it's old Mrs. van Styler. She visored 
to say her son has an intatuation for a ser- 
vant girl, and she wants you to come out 
and give counter-hormones. They're at the 
summer camp in Maine." 

Rich Mrs. van Styler! I couldn't afford io 
let that account down, now that Helen had 
used up the last of my funds. But it wasn't 
a job I cared for. 

"Counter-hormones! That'll lake two 
weeks' full time. Anyway. I'm no society 
doctor, messing with glands to keep tools 
happy. My job's taking care of serious 
medical trouble." 

"And you want to watch Helen," Dave 
was grinning, but he was serious, too. "I 
told her it'd cost her fifty thousand!" 


"And she said okay, if you hurried." 

Of course, there was only one thing to 
do, though I could have wrung fat Mrs. van 
Styler's neck cheerfully. It wouldn't have 
happened if she'd used robots like every- 
one else — but she had to be different. 

Consequently, while Dave was back 
home puttering with Helen, I was racking 
my brain to trick Archy van Styler into get- 
ting the counter-hormones, and giving the 
servant girl the same. Oh, I wasn't sup- 
posed to, but the poor kid was crazy about 
Archy. Dave might have written, I thought, 
but never a word did I gel. 

It was three weeks later instead of two 
when I reported that Archy was "cured," 

and collected on the line. With that money 
in my pocket, I hired a personal rocket and 
was back in Messina in half an hour. I didn't 
waste time in reaching the house. 

As I stepped into the alcove, I heard a 
light patter of feet, and an eager voice called 
out, "Dave, dear?" For a minute I couldn't 
answer, and the voice came again, plead- 
ing, "Dave?" 

I don't know what I expected, but I didn't 
expect Helen to meet me that way, stop- 
ping and staring at me, obvious disap- 
pointment on her lace, little hands flutter- 
ing up against her breast. 

"Oh," she cried. "I thought it was Dave. 
He hardly comes home to eat now, but I've 
had supper wailing hours." She dropped 
her hands and managed a smile. "You're 
Phil, aren't you? Dave told me about you 
when ... at first. I'm so glad to see you 
home, Phil." 

"Glad to see you doing so well, Helen." 
Now what does one say for light conver- 
sation with a robot? "You said something 
about supper?" 

"Oh, yes. I guess Dave ate downtown 
again, so we might as well go in. It'll be 
nice having someone to talk to around the 
house, Phil. You don't mind if I call you Phil. 
do you? You know, you're sort of a god- 
father to me." 

We ate. I hadn't counted on such be- 
havior, but apparently she considered eat- 
ing as normal as walking. She didn't do 
much eating, at that; most of the time she 
spent staring at the front door. 

Dave came in as we were finishing, a 
frown a yard wide on his face. Helen started 
to rise, but he ducked toward the stairs, 
throwing words over his shoulder. 

"Hi, Phil. See you up here later." 

There was something radically wrong with 
him. For a moment, I'd thought his eyes 
were haunted, and as I turned to Helen, 
hers were filling with tears. She gulped, 
choked them back, and fell to viciously on 
her food. 

"What's the matter with him . . . and you?" 
I asked. 

"He's sick of me." She pushed her plate 
away and got up hastily. "You'd better see 
him while I clean up. And there's nothing 
wrong with me. And it's not my fault, any- 
way." She grabbed the dishes and ducked 
into the kitchen: I could have sworn she 
was crying. 

Maybe all thought is a series of condi- 
tioned reflexes — but she certainly had 
picked up a lot of conditioning while I was 
gone. Lena in her heyday had been noth- 

fng like this. I went up lo see if Dave could 
make any sense out of the hodgepodge. 

He was squirting soda into a large glass 
of apple brandy, and I saw that the bolile 
was nearly empty. 'Join me?" he asked. 

It seemed like a good idea. The roaring 
blast of a rocket overhead was the only 
familiar thing left in the house. From the 
look around Dave's eyes, it wasn't the first 
bottle he'd emptied while I was gone, and 
there were more left. He dug out a new 
bottle for his own drink. 

"Of course, it's none of my business. 
Dave, but that stuff won't steady your nerves 
any. What's gotten into you and Helen? 
Been seeing ghosts?"' 

Helen was wrong; he hadn't been eating 
downtown — nor anywhere else. His mus- 
cles collapsed into a chair in a way that 
spoke of fatigue and nerves, but mostly of 
hunger. "You noticed it, eh?" 

"Noticed it? The two of you jammed it 
down my throat." 

"Uhmmm." He swatted at a nonexistent 
fly, and slumped further down in the pneu- 
matic. "Guess maybe I should have wailed 
with Helen until you got back. But if that 
slereocasl hadn't changed . . . anyway, it 
did. And those mushy books of yours fin- 
ished the job." 

"Thanks. That makes it all clear." 

"You know, Phil, I've got a place up in 
the country . . . fruit ranch. My dad left it 
to me. Think I'll look il over." 

And that's the way it went. But finally, by 
much liquor and more perspiration, I got 
some of the story out of him before I gave 
him an amytal and put him to bed. Then I 
hunted up Helen and dug the rest of the 
story from her, until it made sense. 

Apparently as soon as I was gone, Dave 
had turned her on and made preliminary 
tests, which were entirely satisfactory. She 
had reacled beautifully — so well that he 
decided to leave her and go down to work 
as usual. 

Naturally, with all her untried emotions, 
she was filled with curiosity, and wanted 
him to stay Then he had an inspiration. 
After showing her what her duties about 
the house would be. he set her down in 
front of the stereovisor, tuned in a travel- 
ogue, and left her to occupy her time with 
looking at it. 

The travelogue held her attention until it 
was finished, and the station switched over 
to a current serial with Larry Ainslee. the 
same cute emoter who'd given us all the 
trouble with the twins. Incidentally, he looked 

something like Dave did in a vague way. 

Helen took to the serial like a seal to water. 
This playacting was a perfect outlet for her 
newly excited emotions. When that partic- 
ular episode tinished. she found a love story 
on another station, and added still more to 
her education. The afternoon programs 
were mostly news and music, but by then 
she'd found my books; and I do have rather 
adolescent taste in literature. 

Dave came home in the best of spirits. 
The front alcove was neatly swept, and there 
was the odor of food in the air that he'd 
missed around the house for weeks. He 
had visions ot Helen as the super-efficient 

So it was a shock to him lo feel two strong 
arms around his neck from behind and hear 
a voice all aquiver coo into his ears, "Oh, 
Dave, darling, I've missed you so, and I'm 
so thrilled that you're back." Helen's tech- 
nique may have lacked polish, but it had 
enthusiasm, as he found when he tried to 
stop her from kissing him. She had learned 
fast and furiously — also. Helen was pow- 
ered by an atomotor. 

Dave wasn't a prude, but he remem- 
bered that she was only a robot, after all. 
The fact that she felt, acted, and looked 
like a young goddess in his arms didn't 
mean much. With some effort, he untan- 
gled her and dragged her off to supper, 
where he made her eat with him to divert 
her attention. 

After her evening work, he called her into 
the study and gave her a thorough lecture 
on the folly of her ways. It must have been 
good, for it lasted three solid hours, and 
covered her station in life, the idiocy of 
stereos, and various other miscellanies. 
When he finished, Helen looked up with 
dewy eyes and said wistfully, "I know, Dave, 
but I still love you." 

That's when Dave starting drinking. 

It grew worse each day. If he stayed 
downtown, she was crying when he came 
home. If he returned on time, she fussed 
over him and threw herself at him. In his 
room, with the door locked, he could hear 
her downstairs pacing up and down and 
muttering; and when he went down, she 
stared at him reproachfully until he had to 
go back up. 

I sent Helen out on a fake errand in the 
morning and got Dave up. With her gone, 
I made him eat a decent breakfast and gave 
him a tonic for his nerves. He was still list- 
less and moody. 

"Look here. Dave." t broke in on his 

brooding. "Helen isn't human, after all. Why 
not cut off her power and change a few 
memory coils? then we can convince her 
that she never was in love and couldn't get 
that way." 

"You try it. I had that idea, but she put 
up a wail that would wake Homer. She says 
it would be murder — and the hell of it is 
that I can't help feeling the same about it 
Maybe she isn't human, but you wouldn't 
guess it when she puts on that martyred 
look and tells you to go ahead and kill her." 

"We never put in substitutes for some of 
the secretions present in man during the 
love period." 

"I don't know what we put in. Maybe the 
heterones backfired or something Any- 
way, she's made this idea so much a part 
of her thoughts that we'd have to put in a 
whole new set of coils." 

"Well, why not?" 

"Go ahead. You're the surgeon of this 
family. I'm not used to fussing with emo- 
tions. Matter of fact, since she's been act- 
ing this way, I'm beginning to hate work on 
any robot. My business is going to blazes." 

He saw Helen coming up the walk and 
ducked out the backdoor for the monorail 
express. I'd intended to put him back in 
bed, but let him go. Maybe he'd be better 
off at his shop than at home. 

"Dave's gone?" Helen did have that 
martyred look now. 

"Yeah. I got him to eat, and he's gone to 

"I'm glad he ate." She slumped down in 
a chair as if she were worn out, though how 
a mech could be tired beat me. "Phil?" 

"Well, what is it?" 

"Do you think I'm bad for him? I mean, 
do you think he'd be happier if I weren't 

"He'll go cra2y if you keep acting this 
way around him." 

She winced. Those little hands were 
twisting about pleadingly, and I felt like an 
inhuman brute. But I'd started, and I went 
ahead. "Even if I cut out your power and 
changed your coils, he'd probably still be 
haunted by you." 

"I know. But I can't help it. And I'd make 
him a good wife. Really I would, Phil." 

I gulped; this was getting a little too far. 
'And give him strapping sons to boot, I 
suppose. A man wants flesh and blood, 
not rubber and metal." 

"Don't, please! I can't think of myself that 
way. To me. I'm a woman. And you know 
perfectly I'm made to imitate a real woman 
. . . in all ways. I couldn't give him sons. 

but in every other way ... Id try so hard. 
I know I'd make him a good wife." 

I gave up. 

Dave didn't come home that night, nor 
the next day. Helen was fussing and fum- 
ing, wanting me to call the hospitals and 
the police, but 1 knew nothing had hap- 
pened to him. He always carried identifi- 
cation Still, when he didn't come on the 
third day. I began to worry. And when Hel- 
en started out for his shop, I agreed to go 
with her. 

Dave was there, with another man I didn't 
know. I parked Helen where he couldn't 
see her, but where she could hear, and 
went in as soon as the other fellow left. 

Dave looked a little better and seemed 
glad to see me. "Hi, Phil — just closing up. 
Let's go eat." 

Helen couldn't hold back any longer, but 
came trooping in. "Come on home. Dave. 
I've got roast duck with spice stuffing, and 
you know you love that." 

"Scat!" said Dave. She shrank back, 
turned to go. "Oh, all right, stay. You might 
as well hear it. too. I've sold the shop. The 
fellow you saw just bought it. and I'm going 
up to the old fruit ranch I told you about, 
Phil. I can't stand the mechs any more." 

"You'll starve to death at that," I told him. 

"No, there's a growing demand for old- 
fashioned fruit, raised out of doors. People 
are tired of this water-culture stuff. Dad al- 
ways made a living out of it. I'm leaving as 
soon as I can get home and pack." 

Helen clung to her idea "I'll pack. Dave, 
while you eat. I've got apple cobbler for 
dessert." The world was toppling under her 
feet, but she still remembered how crazy 
he was for apple cobbler. 

Helen was a good cook; in fact she was 
a genius, with all the good points of a 
woman and a mech combined. Dave ate 
well enough, after he got started By the 
time supper was over, he'd thawed out 
enough to admit he liked the duck and 
cobbler, and to thank her for packing. In 
fact, he even let her kiss him good-bye, 
though he firmly refused to let her go to the 
rocket field with him. 

Helen was frying to be brave when I got 
back, and we carried on a stumbling con- 
versation about Mrs. van Styler's servants 
for a while. But the talk began to lull, and 
she sat staring out of the window at noth- 
ing most of the time. Even the stereo com- 
edy lacked interest for her, and I was glad 
enough to have her go off to her room. She 
could cut her power down to simulate sleep 
when she chose. 

As the days slipped by. I began to re- 
alize why she couldn't believe herself a ro- 
bot. I got to thinking of her as a girl and 
companion myself. Except for odd inter- 
vals when she went off by herself to brood, 
or when she kept going to the telescript for 
a letter that never came, she was as good 
a companion as a man could ask. There 
was something homey about the place that 
Lena had never put there. 

I took Helen on a shopping trip to Hud- 
son and she giggled and purred over the 
wisps of silk and glassheen that were the 
fashion, tried on endless hats, and con- 
. ducted herself as any normal girl might. 
We went trout fishing for a day. where she 
proved to be as good a sport and as sen- 
sibly silent as a man. I thoroughly enjoyed 
myself and thought she was forgetting 
Dave. That was before I came home un- 
expectedly and found her doubled up on 
the couch, thrashing her legs up and down 
and crying to the high heavens. 

It was then I called Dave. They seemed 
to have trouble in reaching him, and Helen 
came over beside me while I waited. She 
was tense and fidgety as an old maid trying 
to propose. But finally they located Dave. 

"What's up, Phil?" he asked as his face 
came on the viewplate. "I was just getting 
my things together to—" 

I broke him off. "Things can't go on the 
way they are, Dave. I've made up my mind. 
I'm yanking Helen's coils tonight. It won't 
be worse than what she's going through 

Helen reached up and touched my 
shoulder. "Maybe that's best, Phil. I don't 
blame you." 

Dave's voice cut in. "Phil, you don't know 
what you're doing!" 

"Of course I do. It'll all be over by the 
time you can get here. As you heard, she's 

There was a black cloud sweeping over 
Dave's face. "I won't have it, Phil. She's half 
mine and I forbid it!" 

"Of all the—" 

"Go ahead, call me anything you want. 
I've changed my mind. I was packing to 
come home when you called." 

Helen jerked around me, her eyes glued 
to the panel. "Dave, do you . . . are you — " 

"I'm just waking up to what a fool I've 
been, Helen. Phil, I'll be home in a couple 
of hours, so if there's anything — " 

He didn't have to chase me out. But be- 
fore I could shut the door, I heard Helen 
cooing something about loving to be a 
rancher's wife. 

Well. I wasn't as surprised as they 
thought. I think I knew when I called Dave 
what would happen. No man acts the way 
Dave had been acting because he hates 
a girl: only because he thinks he does — 
and thinks wrong. 

No woman ever made a lovelier bride or 
a sweeter wife. Helen never lost her flare 
for cooking and making a home. With her 
gone, the old house seemed empty, and I 
began to drop out to the ranch once or 
twice a week. I suppose they had trouble 
at times, but I never saw it, and I know the 
neighbors never suspected they were any- 
thing but normal man and wife. 

Dave grew older, and Helen didn't, of 
course. But between us, we put lines in her 
face and grayed her hair without letting 
Dave know that she wasn't growing old with 
him; he'd forgotten that she wasn't human, 
I guess. 

I practically forgot, myself. It wasn't until 
a letter came from Helen this morning that 
I woke up to reality. There, in her beautiful 
script, just a trifle shaky in places, was the 
inevitable that neither Dave nor I had seen. 
Dear Phil, 

As you know, Dave has had heart 
trouble for several years now. We ex- 
pected him to live on just the same, but 
it seems that wasn't to be. He died in 
my arms jusi before sunrise. He sent 
you his greeiings and farewell. 

I've one last favor to ask of you, Phil. 
There is only one thing for me to do when 
this is finished. Acid will burn out metal 
as well as flesh, and I'll be dead with 
Dave. Please see that we are buried to- 
gether, and that the morticians do not 
find my secret. Dave wanted it that way, 

Poor, dear Phil. I know you loved Dave 
as a brother, and how you felt about me. 
Please don't grieve too much for us, for 
we have had a happy life together, and 
both feel that we should cross this last 
bridge side by side. 
With love and thanks from, 


It had to come sooner or later, I suppose, 
and the first shock has worn off now. I'll be 
leaving in a few minutes to carry out Hel- 
en's last instructions. 

Dave was a lucky man, and the best 
friend I ever had. And Helen— Well, as I 
said. I'm an old man now. and can view 
things more sanely; I should have married 
and raised a family, I suppose. But . . . there 
was only one Helen O'Loy. 


Norbert needed a computer to help him 
write his short stories . . . 
but he had another, more compelling need 
to help him cope with his existence 



The hard gray tile of the corridor rang un- 
der his feet, bare gray corridor like a 
squared-off gun barrel, bright ceiling over- 
head, and he thought bore, shaft, tunnel, 
tube. His door, 913. He turned the bright 
key in the lock, the door slid aside, hissed 
shut behind him. He heard the blowers be- 
gin; faint current of fresh cool air. sanitized, 
impersonal. The clock over the console 
blinked from 10:58 to 10:59. 

He leaned over the chair, punched the 
"Ready" button. The dark screen came to 
life, displayed the symbols "r. a, norbert 
CG1905331 70 4/11/2012 10:59:04." The in- 
formation blinked and vanished, recorded, 
memorized, somewhere in fhe guts of the 
computer nine stories down. 

Norbert removed his brown corduroy 
jacket, hung it carefully in the closet. He 
sat down in front of Ihe console, loosened 
the foulard around his throat, combed his 
neat little goatee. He sighed, rubbed his 
hands together, then punched the music 
and coffee buttons. 

The music drifted out, the coffee spurled 
into the cup, fragrant brew, invigorating 
beverage, rich brown fluid. He sipped it, 
sel it down, filled his pipe with burley from 
a silk pouch and lit it. 

The screen was patiently blank. He 
leaned forward, punched "Start." Bright 
characters blinked across Ihe screen, the 
printer clattered, a sheel curled out into 
the tray. 

The first one was "worldbook mod fem 
mar 5, set opt," and the other two were just 
the same except for length— one four 
thousand, the other three. 

He thought discontentedly of novels, 
something there a man could get his teeth 
into, a week just setting up the parameters: 
but then a whole month on the job, that 
could be a bore: and Markwich had told 
him, "You've got a touch with the short story, 
Bob." A flair, a certain aptitude, a/e ne sa/s 
quoi. He drank more coffee, put it down. 
He sighed again, pinched his nose reflec- 
tively, touched the "Start" button. 

The screen said: 


opt5," then: 


He picked up the light pen. touched the 
first of the three choices The other two 


setting: NEW YORK 



He hesitated waving the light pen at the 
screen. He paused at "Antwerp"— he'd 
never done that one — but no: too exotic. 
New York. Paris, London ... He frowned, 
clenched the bit of the pipe in his teeth, 
and plunged for "Ocean Towers." It was a 
hunch; he felt a little thrill of an idea there. 

He called for pictures, and the screen 
displayed them: first a long shot of the Tow- 
ers rising like a fabulous castle-crowned 
mountain out of the sea; then a series of 
interiors, and Norbert stopped it almost at 
once: there, that was what he wanted, the 
central vault, with the sunlight pouring 

Sunlight, he wrote, and the screen added 
promptly fell from the ceiling as — and here 
Norbert's stabbing finger stopped it; the 
words remained frozen on Ihe screen while 
he frowned and sucked on his pipe, his 
gurgling briar. Fell wouldn't do: to begin 
with, sunlight didn't fall like a flowerpot. 
Streamed 7 Well, perhaps— No, wail, he had 
it. He touched the word with the light pen, 
then tapped out spilled. Good-oh. Now the 
next part was too abrupt; there was your 
computer for you every time, hopeless when 
it came to expanding an idea; and he 
touched the space before ceiling and wrote, 
huge panes of Ihe. 

The lext now read: Sunlight spilled from 
fhe huge panes of the ceiling as 

Norbert punched "Start" again and 
watched Ihe sentence grow: ... as Inez 
Trevelyan crossed the plaza among fhe 
hurrying throngs. End of sentence, and he 
stopped it there. Trevelyan was all right, 
but he didn't like Inez, too spinslerish. What 
about Theodora — no, too many sylla- 
bles—or Georgette? No. Oh, hell, let the 
computer do it; that's what it was for. He 
touched the name, then the try-again but- 
ton, and gol Jean Joan Joanna Judith Karen 
Karla Laura. There. That had got her— Laura 

Trevelyan. Now then, crossed the plaza— 
well, a plaza was what if was, but why be 
so obvious? He touched Ihe offending word 
with the light pen, wrote in floor; and then 
murmuring instead of hurrying (appeal to 
another sense there); and now, hmm, 
something really subtle — he deleled the 
period and wrote in of morning. 

Sunlight spilled from fhe huge panes of 
the ceiling as Laura Trevelyan crossed the 
floor among the murmuring throngs of 

Not bad — not bad at all. He sipped cof- 
fee, then wrote, The light. You had to keep 
the computer at it, or it would change the 
subject every time. The sentence pro- 
longed itself: was so brilliant and sparkling, 
and he stopped it and revised, and so on; 
and in a moment he had: The light was so 
yellow and pure, even where it reflected 
from the f!ooj~ amid the feet of the pas- 
sersby, that it reminded Laura of a field of 
yellow daisies. The real sun was up there 
somewhere, she knew, but it was so long 
since she had seen it . . . 

Good. Now a little back-look. 

Her first day in Ocean Towers, she re- 
membered unexpectedly, it had been gray 
outside and the great hall had been full of 
pearly light. I! had seemed so wonderful 
and thrilling then. It had taken some pluck 
for her to come here at all— cutting her ties 
with County Clare, leaving all her family 
and friends to go and live in this strange 
echoing place, no! even on land but built 
on pylons sunk info the ocean floor. But 
Eric's and Henry's careers were here, and 
where they went she must go. 

She had married Eric Trevelyan when she 
was nineteen; he was a talented and im- 
petuous man who was making a name for 
himself as a professional fable-tennis player. 
(A mental note: jai-alai might be better, but 
did they have jai-alai in Ocean Towers? 
Check it in a moment.) He had the easy 
charm and bluff good humor of the Eng- 
lish, and an insatiable appetite for living — 
more parties, more sex, more everything. 
His teammate, Henry Ricardo, who had 
joined the marriage two years later, was 
everything that Eric was not — solid, de- 
pendable, a little slow, but with a rare warmth 
in his infrequent smiles. 

So much for that. Norbert punched the 
query button and typed out his question 

about jai-alai in Ocean Towers, and found 
Ihey had it, all right, but on thinking it over 
he decided to make it chess instead; there 
was something a little wonky about the idea 
of a slow jai-alai player, or for that matter 
table tennis either. And besides, he himself 
loathed sports, and it would be a bore 
looking up rules and so on 

Anyhow, now for a touch of plot. Eric and 
Henry, it appeared, were rising in their field 
and had less and less time for Laura. An 
interesting older man approached her. but 
she repulsed him, and took the transpolar 
jet back to County Clare. 

The computer displayed a map of Ire- 
land, and IMorbert picked a town called 
Newmarket-on-Fergus, avoiding names like 
Kilrush, Lissycasey and Doonbeg that were 
too obvious and quaint Besides, New- 
market was not far from Shannon Airport, 
and that made it plausible that Laura had 
met Eric there in the first place. 

Laura was rapturous to be home again 
(the daisies were in bloom), and although 
the Clancy cottages seemed crowded and 
smelly to her now, il didn't matter; but after 
a few weeks she grew tired of watching the 
cows every day and the telly every night. 
and went over to Limerick for a party. But 
Limerick was not what she was seeking, 
either, and she finally admitted to herself 
that she was homesick for Ocean Towers. 
The register stood at 4,031 words. 

Laura took the next jet back to Ocean 
Towers and had an emotional reconcilia- 
tion with Eric (but Henry was a little cool), 
only to learn that they had been offered a 
three-year contract in Buenos Aires. Walk- 
ing the promenade over the Pacific that 
night, unable to sleep, she met the older 
man again (Harlan Moore) and wept in his 
arms. The next morning she called Eric 
and Henry together and told them her news. 
"You must go on to the wonderful things 
and far places that are waiting for you," 
she said. "But I — " and her eyes were sud- 
denly as misty as the dawn over Killar- 
ney— "I know now that my yellow daisies 
are here." 

Five thousand, two hundred and fifteen 
words: pretty close. He became aware that 
he was hungry and that his legs ached 
from sitting so long. The clock above the 
console stood at 2:36. 

No point in starting on the next one now, 
he would only go stale on it over the week- 
end. He got up and stretched until his joints 
cracked, walked back and forth a little to 
get the stiffness out, then sat down again 
and relit his pipe. When he had it drawing 

to his satisfaction, he leaned forward and 
punched the retrieval code for a thing of 
his own he had been working on, the one 
that began, "Chirurging down the blod- 
strom, gneiss atween his tief," and so on. 
He read it as far as it went, added a few 
words half-heartedly and deleted them 
again. Ficciones would probably send it 
back with a rejection slip as usual, the bas- 
tards, although it was exactly like the stuff 
they printed all the time: if you weren't in 
their clique, you didn't have a chance. He 
tapped out. "thank heaven it's Thursday," 
and blanked the screen. 

At 2:58 the screen lit up again: a sum- 
mary of his weekly earnings and deduc- 
tions. The printer clattered; a sheet fell into 
the tray. Norbert picked it up, glanced at 
the total, then folded the sheet and put it 
into his breast pocket, thinking absently 
that he really had better cut down this week 
and pay back some of his debit. He re- 
membered the music and turned il off. The 
soothing strains. He punched the "Fin- 
ished" button and the screen came to life 
once more, displaying the symbols "r. a. 
norbert CG1905331 70 4/11/2012 3:01:44." 
Then it blinked and went dark. Norbert 
waited a moment to see it there was any- 
thing else, a message from Markwich for 
instance, but there wasn't. He straightened 
his foulard, took down his jacket and put it 
on. The door hissed shut behind him, and 
he heard the wards of the lock snick home. 
Down the gunmetal corridor. He gave his 
key to the putty-faced security guard, a 
crippled veteran of the Race War who had 
never spoken a word in Norbert's memory. 
In the public corridor, a few people were 
hurrying past, but not many; it was still early. 
That was how Norbert liked it. If you could 
choose your own hours, why work when 
everybody else did? He punched for twenty, 
and the elevator whisked him up. Here the 
traffic was a little brisker. Norbert got into 
line at the mono stop, looking over the 
vending machines while he waited. There 
were new issues of Madame, Chatelaine, 
Worldbook and Alter Four. He punched for 
all of them and put his card into the slot. 
The machine blinked, chugged, slammed 
the copies into the receptacle. Moving away, 
he could hear the whirring of the fax ma- 
chines making more. 

After Four had nothing of his, as he had 
expected— he did very little men's stuff. 
But Madame and Chatelaine had one of 
his stories apiece, and Worldbook two. He 
checked the indicia to make sure his name 
was there: " 'Every Sunday.' by IBM and 

R. A. Norbert," the only recognition he would 
get. The stories themselves were un- 
signed, although occasionally one of them 
would say, "By the author of 'White Magic,' " 
or whatever. He boarded the shuttle and 
sat down, leafing through the magazines 
idly. "Making Do with Abundance," by 
Mayor Antonio, illustrated by a cornucopia 
dribbling out watches, cigar lighters, bot- 
tles of perfume, packages tied with blue 
satin bows. A garish full-page ad. "Be 
Thoroughly You— Use Vaginal Gloss. The 
best way to give it to you is with a brush." 
"Q Fever — the Unknown Killer." "Race Su- 
icide—Is It Happening to Us?" by Sher- 
wood M. Sibley. The medical article had 
an IBM house name for a byline, but the 
others were genuine. He had met Sibley 
once or twice at house parties — a pop- 
eyed, nervous man with a damp hand- 
shake, but judging by the clothes he wore, 
he must be making plenty. And it was really 
unfair, how much better non-fic writers were 
treated, but, as Markwich said, that was 
the public taste for you, and the pendulum 
would swing. 

He got off at Fifth Avenue and changed 
to the uptown mono. The lights in the car 
were beginning to make his head ache. As 
the car pulled up at the 50th Street slop, 
he looked back and saw something curi- 
ous: a sprawled black figure hanging in 
midair in the canyon of the avenue. Then 
the car pulled in, other people were get- 
ting up, and by the time he could see in 
that direction again, it was gone: but he 
knew somehow that it had been too big 
and the wrong shape for anything but a 
man tailing. He wondered briefly how on 
earth the man had got outside the build- 
ing. All the balconies were roofed and 
glassed in. The fellow must have been a 
workman or something. 

The farther uptown they went, the more 
crowded the mono cars were on the other 
side of the avenue, going south; it was get- 
ting on toward the dinner hour. The crowds 
he could see on the balconies were mostly 
touristy-looking people in Chicagoland suits 
and West Coast Ireak outfits, white-haired 
and swag-bellied. Some of the women, old 
as they were, had smooth Gordonized 
faces, A few Pakistanis, a little younger. 
Really, he told himself, he was lucky to have 
such a good job, young as he was, and 
let's face it, he didn't have the tempera- 
ment for going out and interviewing peo- 
ple, gathering information and all that. 

The man beside him, getting off at 76th 
Street, dropped his newspaper on the seat 

and Norbert picked it up. more kidnap-mur- 


old, says Columbia prof. The usual thing. 
At 125th Street, a glimpse of the sky as he 
stepped out onto the platform: it was faintly 
greenish beyond the dome. He crossed 
the public corridor to the bright chrome 
and plastic lobby of BankAmerica. At the 
exchange window, he presented his card 
to the blond young woman. 'Another twenty- 
five, Mr. Norbert?" 

"That's right, yes, twenty-five." 

"You must really like currency." She made 
a note on a pad, put his card into her ma- 
chine and tapped keys. 

"No, I don't really — I travel a good deal, 
you see. It isn't safe to carry credit cards 
anymore." She glanced up at him silently, 
withdrew his card from the machine. "They 
kidnap you and make you buy things," he 
turther explained. 

Her beautiful Gordonized face did not 
change. She counted out the bills, pushed 
them across the counter. Norbert took them 
hastily, sure that his cheeks were flushed. 
It was no use, he would have to change 
banks; she knew there was no legitimate 
reason to draw twenty-five dollars in cash 
every week. . . . "Thank you, good-bye." 

"Good-bye, Mr. Norbert. Have an enjoy- 
able journey." 

In the public corridor of his level a few 
minutes later, he ran into Art and Ellen 
Whitney heading for the elevators. Art and 
he had been roommates at one time, and 
then when they got married, Art and Ellen 
moved up to one of the garden apartments 
on the fiftieth floor. They looked stiff and 
dressed-up in identical orange plastiques. 
"Why, here he is now," said Art. "Bob, this 
is real luck. We were just trying to get you 
on the phone, then we went and banged 
on your door. This is Phyllis McManus — " 
he turned to a slight, pale blonde Norbert 
had not noticed until now. "And her date 
stood her up. Well, you know, ah, his mother 
is sick. Anyhow, we've got tickets to the ice 
opera at the Garden, and we're going to 
Yorty's afterwards. What do you say, would 
you like to come along?" Phyllis McManus 
smiled faintly, not quite looking at Norbert. 
Her virginal charm. "You will come, won't 
you, Bob?" said Ellen, speaking for the first 
time. She gave his arm a squeeze. 

"I'm terribly sorry," said Norbert, letting 
his eyes glaze and bulge a little with sin- 
cerity. "I promised my sister I'd have din- 
ner with her tonight — it's her birthday, and. 
you know . . ." He shrugged, smiled. "I 

would have loved it, Miss McManus. really 
I can't say how sorry I am." 

"Oh. Well, that's really a shame," said 
Art. "You're sure you couldn't call her up— 
tell her something — " 

"Sorry . . . just can't be done. Hope you 
have a good time, anyhow — good-bye, 
Miss McManus, nice to have met you . . ." 
They drifted apart, with regretful calls and 
gestures. When they were safely gone. 
Norbert headed for the private corridor. His 
room, 2703; the telltales showed it was all 
right. He unlocked the door, closed and 
barred it behind him with a shudder of re- 
lief. The little green room was quiet and 
cool. He rolled up the closet blind, un- 
dressed and hung his clothes up with care. 
Before he stepped into the minishower, he 
punched for a Martini and a burger-bits 
casserole, his favorite. Then the refreshing 
spray. Air-dried and out again, he ate lei- 
surely, watching the 3D and leafing through 
the magazines he had bought. By now Art 
and Ellen and what's-her-name would be 
sitting in a row at the Garden under the 
lights, watching the mannequins cavort on 
the ice-covered arena below. 

Norbert's thighs were beginning to 
tremble. He dressed again, quickly, in his 
"street clothes" — dirty denim pants, a faded 
turtleneck, a cracked vinyl jacket. He re- 
trieved the wad of bills from his weskit, 
pulled the closet blind down again. He 
locked and secured the door behind him. 
Once out of the building, he took the shut- 
tle crosstown to Broadway, down two lev- 
els, then north again to 168th Street. The 
dingy concourse was echoing, almost 
empty. Two or three dopes, twitching and 
mumbling, rode the escalator down with 
him. He came out into the gray street, slick 
and shiny under the glare of dusty light 
panels Streaks of rust down the gray walls. 
The spattered pavement, here since 
LaGuardia; globs of sputum, puddles of 
degradable plastic. Posters on the walls; 


do for you? Rumble of semis and vans on 
the expressway just overhead; electrics 
sliding by on the avenue. Hallucinatory red 
and blue of 3D signs, the faint sound of 

Norbert went into the Peachtree and had 
a quick shot at the bar; he wanted another, 
but was loo nervous and walked out again. 
In the window of Eddie's, three or four good 
old boys were tucking into a platter of pork 
and mustard greens. Norbert crossed the 
avenue and turned west on 169th. The 

doorways were full of 'billies and their girls 
lounging and spitting; one or two of them 
gave him a knowing look as he went by. 
"Hey, yonky," called a mocking voice, just 
barely audible. Norbert kept walking, past 
a few closed storefronts into an area of 
crumbling apartment houses built in the 
sixties. The front windows were all dark, 
the hallways lit only by naked yellow bulbs. 
At the remembered entry, he stopped, 
looked around. On the sidewalk, beside an 
arrangement of numbered squares, some- 
one had written in yellow chalk, "Lucy is a 
Hoka." He went in, under the sick yellow 
light. The hallway stank of boiled greens 
and vomit. The door at the end was ajar. 

"Well, come awn in," said the lanky old 
man in the armchair. His blue eyes stared 
at Norbert without apparent recognition. 
"Don't knock, nobody else does, walk right 
in." Norbert tried to smile. The others at 
the card table looked up briefly and went 
back to their game. The red drapes at the 
courtyard window were pulled back as if 
to catch a breeze. Somewhere up there in 
the blackness a voice burst out furiously, 
"You cocksucker, if I catch you . . ." 
' "Hello, Buddy," said Norbert. "Flo here?" 

"Flo?" said the old man. "No sir, she sho' 
'nough ain't." 

Norbert's insides went hollow. "She's not? 
I mean — where'd she go?" 

The old man waved his arm in a vague 
gesture. "Down home, I reckon." He stood 
up slowly. "Got us a new gal, just up from 
the country this mornin'." He put one hand 
casually between Norbert's shoulder- 
blades and pushed him toward one of the 
bedroom doors. 

"Well, I don't know," said Norbert, trying 
to hang back. 

"Come on," said the old man in his ear. 
"She do inny-thang. You wait now." 

They were standing in front of the door, 
pressed so tightly together that Norbert 
could smell the old man's stale underwear. 
Swollen knuckles rapped the door. "Betty 

After a frozen moment, the door began 
to open. A woman was standing there, 
monstrous in a flowered housedress. Nor- 
bert's heart jumped. She was olive-skinned, 
almost Latin-looking; the folds of her heavy 
face were so dark that they seemed grimy. 
She looked at him steadily from under brows 
like black caterpillars; her eyes were evil, 
weary and compassionate. She took his 
hand. The old man said something which 
he did not hear. Then the door had closed 
behind him and they were alone. 

Ithough the title of this series, 
strictly interpreted, would require that all material in it be reprinted from 
Omni magazine, a more generous practice has prevailed. When the 
novella "Waiting for the Earthquake" by Robert Silverberg appeared in 
volume two because it was too long for the parent magazine, a fortuitous 
precedent was set — and once set, expanded. Henceforth, this series 
would include as many original works as were available and consistent 
with Omni quality. And how very high that quality is can be gauged by 
the stories in the following section. 

First off is "The Touch" by Gregory Benford. It is not a message piece 
but rather an entertainment — an engrossing, chilling extrapolation of 
the current video-game phenomenon. Tron, Donkey Kong, Defender 
are small challenges compared to the game played by Benford's hero. 
Interfaced with a vast computer network this game learns, reasons, 
intrigues. As to the game's outcome — nothing short of startling. 

Another entertainment is "The Lost Secret" in which Laurence Janifer 
resurrects the shrewd, wisecracking character Gerald Knave, who is 
familiar to many from Janifer's novels Survivor and Knave in Hand. 

The publication of a short story by William Tenn (pseudonym of Philip 
Klass) is a noteworthy event not only because it is a powerful allegorical 
piece with a message very much for our time, but because its author 
just hasn't been publishing much in more than a decade. As William 
Tenn he began publishing science fiction in the mid-1940s and during 
the next twenty years published six collections of stories and two nov- 
els — Of Men and Monsters and A Lamp for Medusa. He has been 
known primarily as a satirist but there is nothing funny about his con- 
tribution, "There Were People on Bikini, There Were People on Attu." 

In "Village of the Chosen," an imaginative story, lightly seasoned with 
humor, Alan Dean Foster creates a weary journalist who happens upon 
an anomalously exotic woman. Not quite believing his eyes, he pursues 
her across the wastes of northern Somalia. What happens then is an 
answer to one of the world's age-old problems — an answer, you might 
say, that gets under the skin. 


He had always 
outwitted the Game's 
electronic brain. 
But now the stakes 
were higher . . . and the 
machine was smarter 



Today, al work, he thought 
of the Game incessantly. 
He had been playing it 
for some years now. At Mrs! 
he had sought mere mild 
entertainment. There were, of 
course, the electronic games 
that one saw in public 
places — pitiful things, a few 
moments of shallow 
amusement bought with a 
quarter. That was as far as 

most people went — or could 
go, given their skills. 

He had tried those numbing, 
repetitive conlesls, and quickly 
abandoned them. They 
rewarded quick motor skills 
and elementary tactical sense. 
but were painfully limited. 
Nothing like the Game. 

He had a business meeting 
in the morning. It dragged 
unmercifully. Then came lunch 

with some business associates. They were 
confident, seasoned fellows, their seamed 
faces at ease. As they discussed recent 
events, he thought mildly that politics was 
the intelligent man's weather: an inexhaus- 
tible subject, forever new and forever pur- 
poseless. He studied the brown liver spots 
on his hands and said nothing. 

He found their talk of money matters kept 
drifting in and out of his attention, dream- 
like, as if their numbers and analyses were 
unreal and his memory of the Game was 

That afternoon he lost track entirely dur- 
ing a conference with his own lawyer. The 
man looked puzzled when they parted. 

He left early and went directly home. 
There was a light supper; he made polite, 
bland conversation with his lady but intro- 
duced no fresh topics on his own. As coon 
as was seemly, he remarked on his fatigue 
and went to his study. 

He settled into his favorite leather arm- 
chair, pulling the massive board to within 
easy reach. The display screen nearly ob- 
scured the view out the wide windows. The 
rich lawn beyond was a vibrant yellow- 
green swath. Birds trilled their twilight calls 
among the trees that marched down to the 
river. Dogs romped near the gate. 

He sat with his back to the study door, 
to discourage anyone who might acciden- 
tally enter from striking up a conversation. 
He had a fresh drink at his side. His mind 
was alert. 

The Game began. He lounged back, 
making his first moves, knowing at this stage 
he had ample time, The tranquility of his 
study made immersion in the growing 
complexities easy, and heightened even 
the simple victories of the opening con- 
tests. He never had difficulty at this stage 
any longer. 

It was very much like learning the char- 
acters and setting in a novel. Each time 
the Game featured different cultures, dif- 
ferent assumptions about the importance 
of wealth, of power, of love, of life itself. 
Each Game was fresh. The pitiful elec- 
tronic games that the public played were 
monotonous to him. In the decades since 
their introduction, the public amusements 
had improved somewhat, but they were 
inevitably dominated and limited by their 
audience— mostly adolescents who had 
the time to play, but not the sophistication 
to demand anything better. 

Tonight the scheme was particularly en- 
grossing. The social matrix was modified 
Late Marxist, with class divisions reemerg- 

ing. He played a young man, restive and 
ambitious — his customary choice. 

In the first challenge he had to maneuver 
himself into the Party apparatus. Simple 
enough. There were impediments, of 
course. At the Peoples' Training Camp the 
physical challenges translated into quick, 
deft motions on the board. He learned to 
excel at single combat, neally setting up 
his opponents in the Maze-Delay and 
then — touch — one button, pressed at the 
right instant, did them in. 

He secured a good middle-level post. 
For a young man he was doing quite well. 

Then he became involved with Lisa, the 
mistress of a Regional Commissioner Lust 
drove him — the Game knew his likes by 
now, and the images of Lisa held his eyes 
even when he knew he should be absorb- 
ing other information from the board. Her 
face was a composition of serene curves, 
and her smooth skin glowed. 

He had to keep the affair secret. The 
Commissioner was known as jealous and 
vindictive: the man had learned of Lisa's 
earlier affairs and had adroitly framed each 
of her past lovers for offenses against the 
state. Most of them had vanished in mys- 
terious circumstances. 

Dusk darkened into night outside as he 
felt his way through this society. There were 
advantages he knew from experience- 
some black marketing here, a neat dodge 
there; a controversial report filed at the right 
moment, which forced his immediate su- 
perior to resign. 

The Game was expensive, and that, too, 
enhanced his enjoyment. The Game was 
as intelligent as a human — perhaps more 
so — within its tight, circumscribed uni- 
verse. Huge compuier resources hummed 
to match his mental agility. He stretched 
leisurely in the armchair, feeling the warm 
caress of worn leather, languidly letting the 
study slip away, entering the Game more 
deeply with each move he made. 

Touch — he moved up in the system. 

Touch — and he made contact wilh some 
members in the Opposition. 

Timing, that was it. A moment too soon, 
and the flow of events across the board 
would unmask his moves, make his inten- 
tions obvious. Too late, and a missed op- 
portunity would be picked up by an un- 
derling, gnawing away his position. 

Much of this was displayed in moving 
patterns of crystalline colors, in currents of 
probability. His decisions — touch — came 
quickly. Tactics. Maneuver. He felt himself 
skimming over rapids, attention flicking from 

point to point on the board, sizing up each 
maneuver — moving, always moving. 

Tonight the Game was better than ever. 
It presented him with problems at work, 
intrigues of Party politics, chances for black 
market gains. Risky, but inventive. 

He could lose al any moment. But he 
didn't, No matter how many moves the 
Game thought ahead, he anticipated. There 
was always an out. a way to gain, or at least 
to avoid defeat. That was the one rule: there 
must be a solution. 

At some points the Game was slower 
than usual. He knew this was because his 
skill was matching the ability of the entire 
system. The Game had to simulate life in 
all its complexity, and provide patterns of 
play not used before. 

Any sufficiently complex network comes, 
in time, to seem like an independent entity. 
It was helpful to think of it as sentient. The 
intricate computer linkages had a person- 
ality of their own, and they did not like to 
lose. Through the years he liked to think a 
relationship had formed between himself 
and the constantly improving computer net. 
They had sharpened each other's wits. 

Now he was straining it to the limit When 
that limit was passed, he could win. And 
tonight he knew he would. 

He met Lisa at an apartment he rented, 
under a false name, for that purpose alone. 
Their nights together inflamed his imagi- 
nation. Leaving the apartment at sunrise, 
however, he saw that he was being tailed. 

There were several explanations. Some- 
one in the police, perhaps. A leak in the 

Or an underling, trying to uncover some 
scrap of scandal? Possibly. 

Here was a place to be deft, subtle. Just 
a touch . . . 

He laid traps for these two eventualities. 

Nothing happened. 

He continued meeting Lisa, as often as 
she could arrange to slip away from the 
Commissioner. The man often kept her at 
his country estate, waiting until he had time 
for her. 

She got away to the city as often as pos- 
sible. Their arrangements were elaborate 
and as secure as his years of experience 
could make them. 

Still, there were more signs. He tended 
to his growing personal empire, his net- 
work of informants, his associations with 
those whom he could help and who would 
be willing to return the favor. 

All this he had done before in earlier 
games. But this time, tonight — he had to 

glance up at the black windows to remind 
himself — there were undercurrents he could 
barely sense, subtle shifts, pivots, flows of 
money and power that he did not under- 

He was oblivious now. He did not notice 
the gathering chill from the great windows, 
or even feel the warm, familiar leather. He 
was fully alive, his prickly instincts alert for 
warning nuances in his work, in his cus- 
tomary social relations, in everyday detail. 

A singing vibrancy gripped him and the 
years of routine fell away. The Game was 
excelling itself tonight. He could sense its 
brooding intelligence behind the board, 
feeling him out, retreating when he lunged, 
never giving itself away. Patient. 

The computers had a style, just as did 
he. The Game avoided the obvious, brutal 
methods. It usually let him run a given tac- 
tic for a while, studying it, before adroitly 
deflecting it. The Game favored responses 
that turned the logic of a strategy back upon 
itself. Often il seemed to be playful, inge- 
nious, as if to say, Have you considered it 
this way? 

It was Lisa who noticed the small error. 
She recognized one of the Commission- 
er's cars parked in the distance, a man 
sitting at the wheel. The man was not look- 
ing at the two of them on the balcony above, 
but that did not matter. Lisa had met the 
man only in passing once before, but she 
had a remarkable memory for faces. The 
Commissioner had probably thought us- 
ing him was a negligible risk. 

Fear was part of the Game as well. It 
would have been simple io abandon Lisa, 
to back away and try another path to suc- 
cess. After all, there were many women. 
But by now he was linked to her in ways 
he could not describe even to himself. To 
slink away, losing face when confronted by 
the electronic intelligence behind the 
Game — 

No. He began playing with greal speed, 
nimbly repeating patterns of the past. 

It was important to appear unafraid. To 
continue using tactics that had his usual 
style. To give no hint of his preparations. 

He had to eliminate the Commissioner. 
The brittle intelligence within the Game 
would anticipate that, though probably it 
would not seem a likely move. His personal 
style ran more to the gradual techniques — 
a slow piling up of advantages, until the 
moment of resolution came. 

Therefore, do the opposite. Instead of 
carefully marshaling resources, strike 
swiftly, boldly, in a way uncharacteristic of 

his usual methods. But use Ihe computer's 
expectations against it. Seem to be follow- 
ing a customary pattern. Carry on a series 
of slower moves, moves that the Game 
would expect. 

He set aboul constructing a reasonably 
devious plot, involving a dozen officials. It 
aimed at implicating the Commissioner in 
treasonous securities exchanges with a 
nearby country. He had used a similar de- 
vice before with great success. 

Beneath Ihis, he planned a subplot. It 
had to involve a minimum of people. Lisa 
was the only one he could trust. His style 
was always to use conventional pathways, 
so (he subplot had to be swift and daring. 


Their paths intersected at twilight, at an 
inn in the countryside. He had abandoned 
his own auto on the other side of the city, 
taken a bus. then a train. Lisa had just come 
from the Commissioner's estate. 

She left the pyramid-shaped thing on a 
table in Ihe foyer, keeping her eyes straight 
ahead, and (hen went in to dinner. She did 
not so much as glance at him. The timing 
was perfect. He palmed the pyramid on 
his way out. a moment later, 

The man with Lisa — the Commission- 
er's usual guard for her — stayed in his car, 
reading a newpaper. She was meeting 
friends for dinner and he would be out of 
place. The man did nol even look up as a 
shadow moved from the side door and into 
the trees nearby. 

He ran the two kilometers Ihrough dense 
woodland as dusk became night. Branches 
scratched his face. An owl hooted at him, 
bul Ihere was no sign of deleclion. Pant- 
ing, he thought of Lisa dining, taking her 
time, extending the interval until the pyra- 
mid-key would be needed to readmit her 
to the estate. He remembered her black 
hair, the high arch of her cheekbones, the 
hypnotic passion of her. 

He used the pyramid-key Io disarm the 
detectors. In the blackness he had only 
starlight and the remembered locations of 
the alarm system monitors to guide him. 
He recognized the small hill near the river 
and ran around it, keeping in cover. 

There was the line of frees leading to the 
great house The downstairs rooms were 
not supposed to be in use. and indeed, as 
she had said, they were dark. 

He used the pyramid-key al the gate 
again. It slid open silently, 

He went up the driveway, avoiding the 
gravel, and around to the back. The kitchen 
door yielded. No one about. Through a side 

room, where silverware awaited polishing. 
Turn left. Yes — (he big dining room. Then 
a hallway lined with scowling portraits. Lush 
carpeting that led to a stairway. His foot- 
steps made no sound going up. 

He took out the gun. Pressed against 
flesh, it delivered a nerve poison. Death 
was swift and untraceable. 

Turn here to the left. A closed door. From 
under it yellowish light seeped. No sound 
from within. 

He turned the knob slowly. Well oiled, as 
she had arranged. The latch slid free. 

Now he moved quickly. The images came 
at him in a rush. 

A brown armchair. Books lining the study. 
Large windows, showing the blackness 
outside. The head of the older man, white 
haired, nol resting back against the leather 
but instead tilted forward, concentrating on 
the board before him, the wrinkled neck 
exposed, the face intent and pensive, fo- 
cused, as if waiting for — 


Gregory Benford, now in his early forties, 
is both an accomplished scientist and a 
celebrated writer of science fiction. He 
earned his doctorate in physics from the 
University of California where he is now a 
full professor at the Irvine campus. And as 
a scientist he has published some fifty pa- 
pers on such subjects as high-energy as- 
trophysics, pulsars, quasars and violent 
extragalactic events. As a writer of science 
fiction he is noted for his well-plotted, care- 
fully written, elegant prose. Recognition of 
his exceptional achievement in science 
fiction came in 1981 when he not only won 
a Nebula Award for his novel Timescape, 
but when the name "Timescape" itself was 
chosen by the publishing house of Simon 
and Schuster for its new line of science 
fiction paperbacks. Earlier novels include 
If the Stars are Gods (co-authored with 
Gordon Ecklund). Deeper Than the Dark- 
ness and In Ihe Ocean of Night. These 
works and most of his short stories are 
based on Benford's favorite themes — ge- 
netic engineering, theology, deep-space 
exploration, alien worlds and future weap- 
onry. In large part these themes are evi- 
dent in the two of his stories— "A Hiss of 
Dragon" .(co-written with Marc Laidlaw) and 
"Dark Sanctuary" — already anthologized 
in The Best of Omni Science Fiction series. 
Significantly perhaps, since it touches on 
none of his usual motifs, the never-before- 
published Benford story in this volume may 
mark a new departure in his writing career. 


How Gerald Knave makes 

a killing in 

the immortality racket 



■ e said his name was Duncan Harrison and he 
insisted on buying me another drink. I told him it didn't matter, he had only upset my gimlet at the bat, 
it could have happened to anybody, and just forget it. "But I teel an obligation," he said. "I'm terribly 
sorry— a little clumsy this evening— but I have a great deal on my mind," Which is when he began to 
interest me, strangely. 

I was in the Regency Inn, NA Continent, Earth, which is a little showy and has all-live service, so an 
all-live bartender brought me a new gimlet and put another Thing in front of my new friend. It was blue 
and it had foam on it, and he didn't identify it and God knows I didn't ask. I said, merely and mildly, 
"Thanks," and Harrison raised his Thing and gave me a nervous little smile over the rim of it. 

Duncan Harrison: five feet five, maybe one hundred and twenty pounds, expensive black-silk jumper 
with the usual fittings, hair a little thin on top, and one helluva earnest, terribly honest expression behind 
his horn-rims. 

"Not at all," he said. "It was completely my fault, Mr. — " He hesitated. "By the way." he said, "I don't 
know your name." 

"Knave," I said. "Gerald Knave." I was out of business cards— one of the reasons I was staying in the 
Home Worlds a little longer than usual was to get some more printed up with Real Earth quality and 
expense attached — but I wouldn't have given him one if I'd had ten thousand. Gerald Knave: Survivor 
looks fine on a card, but if you hand the card out, you are buying yourself a lot of explanation lime, and 
I wasn't in the mood. 

Besides, as I've said, this Harrison type interested me. And I had the very strong feeling that a word 
like Survivor might be a word he understood, and that understanding might make him nervous. And I 
knew, right off, that I didn't want him nervous. I wanted him calm, cool, assured, and entirely certain that 
he was in total control of the situation. 


So I slopped, and smiled back al him. 
and wailed lo find out what the situation 
was going to be. We took a sip apiece, and 
Harrison said, nicely casual: "Why not sit 
at a table — if you don't mind? You look like 
an unusual sort of man, Mr. Knave." 

It's not a bad opening. When he looked 
round, spotted an empty table in a corner 
some distance from anyone else, grabbed 
his Thing, and headed lor it. I followed right 
along, porting the gimlet. 

I was wearing a fairly expensive outfit, 
and I let my expression and attitude change 
a little to confirm what the outfit said: I was 
all over innocence and light-hearted wealth. 
When we sat down. I took up his opening: 
"What's unusual about me?" 

"Well — " He hesitated, frowning. Trying 
to sum it all up. "It's really just an impres- 
sion I get. But, when you've been around 
as long as I have — " Another hesitation, 
while a small shadow of secret satisfaction 
crossed his face and was allowed to dis- 
appear — "well, you learn to depend on such 
impressions. You're — ah — reasonably 
successful, in the world's terms, Mr. 
Knave — but a shrewd sort of man to deal 
with; I'd say that at once. However, in your 
own terms . . ." He let it trail off, and gave 
me a fairly effective shrug. 

"In my own terms?" I said. Surprised, 
but wary. 

He took another sip of that damned blue 
Thing. "In your own terms. Mr. Knave, you're 
not satisfied — not really. You're still looking 
for something — still searching — " 

My surprise became open astonish- 
ment. "How did you know thai?" I said, re- 
minding myself, for God's sake, not to 
overdo it. 

He tried the smile again. He was very 
good at it. "As I say," he told me, "when 
you've been around as long as I have, Mr. 
Knave — " 

'Jerry," I said. "Please. And you don't 
look so very old — I'd say forty-five, at the 
outside." An honest count would have made 
it fifty; I felt it was in character— the char- 
acter I was still busily assuming — to shade 
it a little for him. 

'Jerry, then," he said. The same smile, 
with a little of his secret-satisfaction bit 
added in. "What would you say if I told you 
I was older than forty-five — very much 

I'd fed him the right cue line. My face 
stayed innocent, astonished, and friendly — . 
but still a little wary. "What I'd say, Mr. Har- 
rison — " I started. 

"Duncan," he said. He didn't push too 


hard. He really was very good. At least, a 
good bit better than average. 

It got him my very best nervous smile. 
"Duncan, then," I said, to even us up. "I'd 
say you were in, well, just remarkable health. 
If you're really much older than forty-five — 
well, Duncan, I just wouldn't believe it." 

He nodded, soberly. "That's our protec- 
tion, you see," he said. "Nobody would be- 
lieve it. Oh, everyone talks about it — you 
must have heard some idle chatter— but 
nobody knows that it's quite real. II actually 
exists; it's been found." Secret satisfac- 
tion; small smile. "The only people who do 
know, you see, are the ones who've had 
it — and, of course, the ones who become 
candidates for it." 

"Candidates?" I said. "For what?" It 
seemed like a good idea to give him the 
chance to make his full pitch; if I were a 
little slow to catch on, he might relax a bit 

"For immortality," he said, and looked 
around as if to spot anyone listening. No- 
body was listening. "The lost secret of the 
Ancients," he went on. "Immortality." 

As he'd told me, I hadn't become suc- 
cessful without being a little shrewd. I trot- 
ted out some shrewdness. "Now, wait a 
minute — " I said. 

"Oh, I know it sounds like a 3V thriller." 
he said He looked around some more. "It's 
a legend, after all, and some people still 
believe that it doesn't exist. That the secret 
of immortality was something the Ancients 
didn't have time to discover, back before 
the Clean Slate War—" 

"Sure I've heard talk," I said. "Every- 
body has. But — well, you said it yourself — 
it's a legend. And only a legend. Good God, 
man, if it were real — " 

"Yes," he said. "If it were real. Concen- 
trate on that for a minute. Perhaps you'll 
see why we take great care to maintain it 
as a legend." 

So I sat there. I hadn't been looking for 
this Duncan Harrison — or for anybody. I'd 
just dropped in for a drink or two. But I had 
every intention of continuing the acquaint- 
ance very closely, for a while. 

Therefore, after a decent interval, and 
most of the gimlet, I allowed the light of 
understanding to dawn on my eager face. 
'"You mean — " I said, with all the awe I 
could muster. "You mean it wouldn't be for 

That brought from him a big, satisfied 
smile. "I knew I was right about you," he 
said. "You're quick. You see the point at 

once. It simply can't be for everybody. Why, 
the Home Worlds are overcrowded as 
things stand, only three hundred years after 
the Clean Slate War. And there aren't 
enough Frontier planets to take care of the 
population we'd have — if nobody ever died. 
Given just one child per couple every twenty 
years ." The shrug again. 

"Of course," I said. "It would make sense. 
But you're telling me — " 

"I'm telling you," he said, very solemnly, 
"that I am one hundred and thirty years 
old. A comparative newcomer. After the re- 
constructing archaeologists found the An- 
cients' secret — found it. and were bright 
enough to keep it secret, never to mention 
it in any public report — a few rules for en- 
listing new members were hammered out. 
Luckily," he told me with a modest smile 
good enough to add to my collection of 
modest smiles, "I was judged fit. I passed." 

It seemed time to display a little actual 
thought. "But if they had it before the war," 
I said, "then there must be people even 
older than you — people born before the 
beginning of the twenty-first century. The 
ones who got the formula before the war, 
and managed to survive through it," 

"There are indeed," he said. "I've met 
one, though he isn't on Earth now. But I 
doubt that there are very many, Jerry. After 

proof against a fusion bomb, I suppose— 
or against massive radiation damage." 

He was positively beaming at me. "I knew 
you were quick," he said. "It's a combi- 
nation of elements, plus a radiation treat- 
ment, meant to encourage cellular regen- 
eration. Even if I were shot, say, I might 
regenerate quickly enough to stay alive. 
But you're quite right. A fusion bomb 
wouldn't be survivable, and massive fall- 
out would probably be too much for the 
regenerative faculties. Not that we have 
those worries nowadays, not with proper 

He stopped He was waiting for my next 
line, so I gave it to him. "But why are you 
telling me all this?" I said, displaying a 
proper degree of my shrewd wariness. 
'After all—" 

"I'm telling you. Jerry," he said, "be- 
cause I believe you can pass inspection." 
The satisfied beam gave way to solemnity 
again. "Frankly, I'm sure of it, and I haven't 
been wrong about so important a belief 
in— well, in at least ninety years. Our meet- 
ing was a most happy accident." 

"It certainly was," I said fervently. I meant 
it, too, for a change. Most sincerely. 

"In fact," he was saying. "I want you to 
meet our Dr. Royce. You see, Jerry, no one 
member of our — ah— group can admit a 
new candidate. At least two must agree. 
and Royce, Ihe dear chap, happens to be 
not only on Earth, but right here in the cap- 
ital right now." 

I stared at him as if he'd turned into an 
ostrich. "You mean — if you and this — this 
Dr. Royce — agree on me . . ." 

He nodded, very slowly. "You'll be given 
the formula at once— if possible," he said. 
'A drink, with instructions for concocting it 
again if you must — though we have cen- 
ters on several planets, and you'll be pro- 
vided with a list. You'll need a refresher 
dose of the formula every twenty years or 
so. The radiation treatment is required only 

"You mean that's all there is to it?" I said. 
maintaining the stare". 

"That's all," he said, with a fine, slow, 
casual smile. "Except for the dues, of 
course, which are payable every twenty 
years, when you get your new dose. The 
money goes toward supporting those cen- 
ters, as well as the plantations where we 
grow what we require for the formula. You'll 
be told where those are, too, of course . . ." 
He stopped for a second or so, and then 
added, 'And the dues can be waived, nat- 
urally, in cases of hardship." 

I swear, it hurt him even to say that. If 
he'd meant it, it might have killed him. But 
I let it pass. "No problem there," I said, 
heartily. "As you deduced, I'm quite suc- 
cessful ... in the world's terms. Dues? Why. 
who wouldn't pay every cent he could 
scrape up, for — " 

"Keep your voice down," he snapped. It 
was a very good snap: testy, authoritative, 
anxious. I appreciate talent of all sorts. 

So I said. "Oh ... of course," in a whis- 
per, and looked frightened, and peered 
around The inn wasn't crowded; at its 
prices, it seldom is. We were a fair distance 
from the nearest visible human being. 
"But — can you give me any idea when I 
might — might meet your Dr. Royce? 

"I thought you'd be impatient," he said, 
"Most successful men have that sort of 
drive. They feel that there's never enough 
time." He gave me a forgiving smile for 
having raised my voice, or for being im- 
patient, or both. "Mow, of course, there will 
be time enough for everything." 

I went on being frightened. "There might 
be— if I pass." I said hopefully. 

The smile became a positive sunburst. 
Harrison had about half a man's weight, 
and three men's charm. "Don't worry about 
a thing," he told me. "Believe me, you're 
as good a candidate as I've ever seen." 
And. after the slightest pause, "By the way. 
are you staying here?" 

"The Regency? No," I said, truthfully. "I've 
rented my own apartment, downtown, I find 
it more convenient when I must be in the 
city. In facl, I was just here to begin killing 
an evening." All true, within limits. I did have 
an appointment, a bit later, but it was 
breakable: she was lovely, but she was also 
understanding. And I saw no particular 
harm in forcing my new friend's pace. 

He frowned in thought, an effect not quite 

as good as his testy snap had been. "Well. 

since you have the evening free," he said 

after a time, "and Dr. Royce is in the city 

suppose I go and see what can be 

"By all means," I said, and he nodded 
and left me, 

I sal there finishing my c. m e:. II had been 
a long time since I'd run into the immor- 
tality racket— Ihe losl art of cellular regen- 
eration, complete with nice, high dues, that 
had been located among surviving papers 
or tapes of the pre-Space, pre-Clean-3late- 

War human race. I'd almost thought of it as 
dead, which would have been a shame: a 
good con is a work of art, and It's nice to 
know that even the old numbers are still 
around. And so far, good old Duncan Har- 
rison was playing everything according to 
the script. 

And — who knows?— maybe there was 
such a thing, back in the misty twentieth 
century. Cellular regeneration, and anti- 
gravity: the Ancients were supposed to 
have had both. Nobody knows for sure, of 
course, and the chances are that nobody 
ever will. Two hundred years of recon- 
structive archaeology is a helluva lot of 
hunting, and anything that hasn't turned 
up probably won't. 

I entertained myself with thoughts like 
that until, after eight or ten minutes, Dun- 
can came bustling back in. I snapped to 
my feet at once. Eager? Hell, I was prac- 
tically straining at the leash. 

He was beaming again. "We're in luck," 
he told me. "If you can be here tonight at 
ten o'clock — " 

"Here?" I said. "In the Inn?" 

"Dr. Royce's room," he said. "He has digs 
here at the Regency — finds it a change 
from lab work, I imagine." He gave me the 
room number, and I promised to be there. 

"And, Jerry," he said, "I'd advise— well, 
the formula's rather delicate. The drinking 
you've already done won't hurt matters, but 
no more between now and ten." 

It was a solid, convincing touch. "Of 
course." I said. "No trouble at all." 

"Very well, then. I'll expect you at ten. 
I want to tell Dr. Royce about you, of 
course . . ." 

"Of course," I said. 

He gave me his biggest, brightest smile. 
and I shook his hand. He had a firm, hon- 
est handclasp. 

They always do. 

I made two calls. One was to my ap- 
pointment, who was understanding. When 
I explained what was going torward, she 
was overjoyed and wanted to pitch in and 
help, but I couldn't find a slot for her She 
didn't much like that, but she did accept it 
at last, with my promise that she'd be the 
first to be tapped when any little jobbie 
came along that called for the Eternal Fe- 
male. She owns a fine spirit of fun, which 
is one reason she was my appointment that 
night in the first place. 

Then I went on home and discovered 
that I'd been inspired. Nothing like the 
prospect of immortality to liven up a man. 
I began cooking the best dinner I'd eaten 
in several months, found a good wine to 
go with it. and then, regretfully, put the wine 
back into the rack. If you're going to do a 
thing, do it right. 

I did compensate a little, with a pot of 
gunpowder green tea after dinner. Away 
back, two or three centuries before the 
Clean Slate War, there had been talk that 
the stuff was a hallucinogen. It isn't, as far 
as I know, but I keep hoping. And the lovely 
stuff is one of my belter cravings 

I washed dishes, thought about a little 
light dusting, and decided there wasn't time. 
Some people collect stamps, and some 
ski. Me, I'm a housekeeper by avocation. 
I've got aTotum and a couple ot small Rob- 
bies slaved to it, but I do for myself unless 
I feel depressed or turn out to be just too 
damned busy. That night, I turned up busy; 
besides, the apartment really didn't need 

And then it was nine-thirty. Time to head 
back to the Regency. 

Dr. Royce was awfully good for the part. 
At ten o'clock on the nose, he flung the 
door open in response to my knock and 
barked at me, "Yes'' What's this? Who are 
you, boy 9 " 

I took myself aback, about six inches. 

"My name is Gerald Knave," I said. "Mr. 
Harrison — " 

He actually snorted, emitting a rare sound, 
and a surprisingly unpleasant one. "Oh, yes, 
Duncan did mention that," he said. "But I've 
a great deal on my mind just now. I'm alraid 
it's quite impossible. Perhaps some other 
time. A few months, possibly a year ... I'm 
sorry, Mr. Er-um, but—" 

Still aback, I said, "But — " and Harrison 
came in, right on cue. 

"Now, Carlos, "he said soothingly. "We've 
just got to make the lime. We don't find a 
new candidate every day, you know." 

"Hrnpf." Dr. Royce said. "I am not at al! 
convinced — " 

"But I've told you — " 

"Yes, yes, Duncan," he sighed. "I know." 
There was a long pause, during which I 
tried looking eager, uncertain, nervous, and 
one part irritated, to keep up the success- 
ful, shrewdly wary, man-of-the-world fla- 
vor. "Well," the good doctor said at last. 
"come in, sir. I suppose we shall have to 
speak with you, at least. Duncan is simply 
not given to such unusual fits of — ah — en- 
thusiasm.'' He stepped back from the 
doorway and I went in. 

As I say, awfully good for the part. He 
wasn't quite up to my own six leet, but he'd 
have dressed out a good bit heavier than 
my one-seventy-five or so. White hair in a 
thick shock, beetling eyebrows, and a 
square, choleric face; an ill-fitted jumper 
covered with odd-experiment stains and 
the like, and a voice like a pipe organ with 
a slight case of asthma, set to bourdon — 
solid, low, and a trifle wheezy. No glasses, 
by the way: a good touch. You expect a 
"Dr. Royce" to be wearing eyeglasses of 
some sort, and their absence makes the 
effect a good deal stronger. He's not your 
expectable, 3V doctor-type, so he must be 

In any case, I was ready and, by God, 
even panting to be convinced. I stepped 
in and looked round, wondering idly how 
much my dues payment was going to be. 
Judging from Royce's room, it would be 
fairly large. 

The Regency is by no means the posh- 
es! of hotels, but it is by no means a dog. 
Call it medium-luxury: a lot of people trav- 
eling on business, a few newlywed cou- 
ples, a little of this and that, and a lot of 
top-class convention business. An ob- 
vious place, when I came to think about it, 
for people like Harrison and Royce to troll 
for bites. 

And Royce had one of the better rooms— 

a single, but a big one, a double bed, mir- 
rors here and there, an immense dresser 
that looked so much like real wood it might 
have been, a few chairs, one closet door, 
one door to the obvious bath. 

And, of course, the Apparatus. One whole 
corner of the place looked like a set for a 
wildly extravagant Mad Scientist show. 
Tubes and bottles, dials and meters and 
you name it. all arranged on two tables and 
part of the floor. It was very impressive, 
and quite a lot of the stuff was at work- 
bubbling or fuming, mostly. Its basic odor 
was banana mixed with rubbing alcohol. 
Just odd enough to be convincing. 

Harrison came forward to meet me. 
'Uerry!"hesaid. "Good to see you!" I gave 
him a grin like a weak highball: two-thirds 
neutral irritation and one-third wry. "Oh, 
Carlos — " he said, and waved a forgiving 
sort of hand. "You'll have to excuse him. 
He's a good deal younger than I. He gets 
upset more easily." 

"Upset?" Royce said, still the choleric 
mad scientist. "1 am not upset. But, my dear 
Duncan, we know nothing about this man. 
He might be anyone. He might be some 
plausible fool. What we have is of great 
value, you know." 

Of course they had done their checking, 
and they'd found, since I'd last seen good 
old Duncan, what 1 wanted them to find. 

Legitimate parties checking on me gel 
legitimate answers. These two charming 
people wouldn't have known the right 
questions, or the order in which to ask them. 
My files are a matter of public record, as 
far as any citizen's are, but there are two 

Governments need Survivors once in a 
while, and they do tend to appreciate the 
work, if you bring it to their attention loudly 
enough. Once in a while, I can make some- 
thing out of such gratitude, though it sel- 
dom turns out to be money. I can't touch 
any other listing, but I can just nudge my 

I'd depended on the checking. They'd 
showed admirable attention to detail, after 
all— that bit about Royce being younger 
than Harrison, for instance, when he looked 
easily ten years older. All in all, they were 
just short of the top bracket. 

Royce, still gruff and still obviously re- 
luctant — you never sell the mark, you let 
him buy — asked me to submit to some 
questions, and I found a chair and sat down. 
The inquisition was predictable: what I do 
for a living and how well I do at it were the 
central points of interest, though the scene 

d up with a fair number of psy- 
chological-type queries. "Which would you 
rather be. an ostrich or a penguin?"— that 
sort of thing. 

They got the answers that tilted the rec- 
ords they'd tapped, the ones that have me 
in investments and doing well in a some- 
what-above-medium range The ones that 
have me never setting loot off Ihe planet, 
for thai matter. 

Royce was quite convincingly reluctant. 
which meant that it took him an hour of this 
sort ot gulf to become convincingly con- 
vinced I occupied myself, while reeling out 
answers and attitudes (I chose the pen- 
guin, if you care— being in character), with 
trying to guess the figure they had me 
pegged tor. 

"The radiation treatment will be tomor- 
row. ' Royce said at last, a little regretfully. 
I thought, since I'd let it be known that I 
could lay my hands on a fair lot of coarse 
cash more or less instantly. But I'd figured 
on the delay; putting the mark on the send 
gives him a chance fo develop even more 
eagerness, and gives the happy con men 
a final chance to check on any nosy, un- 
bought, law types. "And I must warn you." 
he went on, "that the dues are high. Main- 
taining our plantations, our centers, re- 
quires a good deal of money in these 
crowded days." 

"Some day soon." Harrison said, "we 
should simply move— all of us in the 
group — lo our own planet. A planet of im- 
mortal beings . . 

A wondrous thought. "Money doesn't 
matter," I snapped, lying in my teeth. 
"What's money, if I can use it to buy— well, 
to buy life with?" 

"Exactly," friend Duncan told me, smil- 
ing paternally. And. as you will discover, 
your— ah— new perspective will be a great 
help in making more money." 

I nodded, judiciously. "I can see how that 
might be." I said. "But. well, what are the 
dues?" I asked that dne just as casually as 
I could. 

"Five hundred thousand dollars," my dear 
friend said, in a perfectly even voice. 

And, damn it. I'd lost my bet. I'd figured 
them for seven-filly. 

It developed that I was to meet them at 
the radiation center at ten-thirty in the 
morning. I got the address, and a caution 
not to mention the Secret to a single soul. 

"Of course not!" I said, wounded at their 
lack ol faith. "I'll tell my bank — well, I'll tell 
them something. Something quite plausi- 

ble, you know. But as lor this— of course 

After a few more seconds of this-and- 
that chat, the door shut, leaving me back 
in the corridor 

Oh. I nearly forgot to mention that I'd had 
my formula. It was sort of a deep yellow 
with purple swirls, and it fizzed a bit. Six 
ounces, more or less. It tasted like plain 
soda mixed with oregano. a brand new ef- 
fect for my palate, and nol one I was anx- 
ious to repeat. 

I didn't think the stuff could hurt me any, 
After all. they wanted me in the pink of con- 
dition in the morning. After that, they'd be 
gone, and it wouldn't matter, and practi- 
tioners of the large con tend to attacks of 
nervousness at the thought of actually 
hurting someone — physically. 

Maybe, I thought, it would be a hallucin- 
ogen when it mixed with the gunpowder 
tea I remembered something about oreg- 
ano. Or marijuana. Or something of the son. 
LSD? DNA? PreSpace bourbon? 

No such luck, But Ihe game was fun 
enough on its own; I didn't need stimu- 
lants. At any rate. I didn't need chemical 

I checked the time, once I was safely out 
and away; nearly midnight. There'd been 

more lalk and filler than I'd realized How- 
ever, I could still make a call . . . 

My previous appointment, I was in- 
formed, would dearly love to hear how 
matters were coming along, and why didn't 
I drift along to her place and tell her all? 

Why not? I decided- 

And she was delighted And so was 1 

The place turned out to be a run-down 
sort of building near Ihe edge ol the city, 
which was disappointing. But apparently 
they couldn't run their radiation whatsit off 
Ihe hotel's power And the place -to- place 
gimmick is always a good idea in any case; 
it gives the mark the impression that he's 
involved with a large outfit, with planta- 
tions, maybe, just about everywhere. 

As instructed: a white plastic door with- 
out identification, on the second floor. Friend 
Duncan had said: "We don't advertise our- 
selves, ot course." Of course. Maybe they'd 
just found a vacant spot and weren't even 
paying rent. 

Dr. Royce answered my knock, looking 
jusl as testy as ever. He let me in without 
a word. 

It was a big. bare room with a large, white 
Something in the center. The Something 
looked a little like a truly ancient X-ray ma- 

chine crossed with a gigantic 3V editor. Or 
a silent-movie editor, to keep everything in 
the same generation. It had a wooden chair 
set between two large screens, a big light 
above the screens, and a great many dials 
and meters. Loving care, two or three hours 
ot it, had gone into setting it up. 

Harrison was standing next to the Some- 
thing. "Ready?" he asked. 

I gave him my very best nervous-but- 
courageous smile. "You mean — this is it?" 
I said, quavering just a trifle. 

He looked at me, reassuringly. 'Just sit 
down, Jerry," he said. "Dr. Royce will give 
you the treatment. It won't hurt a bit, I 
promise you." 

I headed for the chair. Halfway along, I 
stopped and said, "Oh, there is one thing." 

"What is it?" Royce asked from behind 
me, even more testily. 

"The dues," I said apologetically, "as you 
said— in cash—" 

"Since the transaction must be quite se- 
cret," Harrison said. 

"Certainly," I said. 

I stood there. I fished in an inside pocket. 
I began to bring out a large envelope full 
of perfectly real money. 

Royce was now at my side. Harrison was 
in front of me, maybe four steps away. 

I had little trouble getting the envelope 
out of my pocket. 

And there was a knock on the door. Har- 
rison and Royce stood like statues, silent, 
not breathing. After what seemed to be 
several years, the knock was repeated. 
"They musl be looking for someone else," 
Harrison said. 

"Certainly," Royce said, with great calm. 
"Now, to continue — " His hand was out. 

I was holding the envelope by then, al- 
most carelessly. Not quite. 

The knock came again. A voice said, "Dr. 
Royce? Dr. Carlos Royce?" 

He had the grand manner. He turned to 
face the door without a tremor, "Who is 
thai?" he said in an even voice 

Harrison was a little pale. I pretended 
not to notice. 

'A group member," the voice said. A nice, 
young tenor. "I don't know you — but radia- 
tion treatment shouldn't be necessary, or 
desirable, if the subject is under sixty-three 
standard years of age. Please, let me in." 

Absentmindedly, I'd slipped the enve- 
lope halfway back into thai inside pocket. 
Harrison was staring at it. Royce stood still, 
his face a gaping mask of indecision, but 
after all, what the hell could he do? Ignor- 
ing the voice wouldn't make it go away. 

What if the voice belonged to a police 
officer who hadn't, somehow, been squared 
away, and was ready, by now, to beam his 
damned way in? 

Royce could open the door. Or cut his 
throat with something or other. So he 
opened the door. 

The kid outside looked just over twenty. 
He gave the room one comprehensive 
glance. Whatever he was. he wasn't law. 

"I overheard the talk," he said. "Yester- 
day, in the Regency Inn. And, of course, I 
had to check up later . . . privately, I assure 
you. This radiation treatment . . ." 

"You couldn't have overheard," Harrison 
said. "You weren't there." 

The boy grinned. "You simply didn't no- 
tice me. People don't, when I don't want 
them to. Its a talent one can develop. You've 
got more than the rudiments of it, as you 
should have. And my hearing, of course, 
is extraordinarily acute. It gets that way after 
three hundred and twelve years of treat- 

Royce was still speechless. The grand 
manner had carried him as far as it could. 
Harrison said, "Three — hundred — and — " 

"Of course," the boy said. "You're not 
members I recognize, and I don't know what 
tests you've given this man." He pointed 
at me in an offhand way, and I shrank a 
little. "As to all this about radiation treat- 
ments — please, do you mind if I check your 
basic formula?" 

"I— we don't have the — the — " Harrison 
look a deep, deep swallow. "We gave it to 
him — last- — night — " 

The boy nodded. I said, helpfully, 
sounding boih puzzled and halfway scared, 
"I could describe it, anyhow," He nodded 
again. I described it. Even unto ihe damned 

"But that must be all wrong!" the boy 
said. "Sir — Mr. Harrison — I don't under- 
stand — " 

"That's the formula I drank," I said. 

"Well," the boy said. He shut the door 
and stood against il, looking thoughlfully 
at the three of us. "I don't see how. This 
can't be the real thing at all." 

Harrison said fitfully. "But — perhaps we— 
you might—" 

The boy's face went hard. 

"You see," he said softly, "there were a 
few survivors, after the war. Not many. De- 
velopment only came in 1990. And if was 
a bad time. A bad time," His face went 
quite still and his eyes shut. Nobody else 
moved or spoke, "But there were a few. 
And Ihere are groups I don't know of, so I 

assumed it could happen that — " 

"This is another formula," Harrison said. 
"Separale lines of development — " He was 
recovering, a litlle. 

"No. it isn't possible, "the boy said. "Any- 
thing with a ftzz— and yellow — no such drink 
could have a regenerative effect. The 
number of compounds which would have 
such qualities is derivable, of course. Dr. 
Royce, you must know of many." 

Dr. Royce made a sound that might have 
turned into speech if we had all given it an 
hour or so. Instead. I cul in, "But if it isn't 

"You're doubting me. of course," the boy 
said. "Well, is there any one of you wilh 
official connections?" 

Royce made his sound again, and then 
echoed, "With official — " 

The boy nodded, "Oh, not a law agency. 
Believe me. But, you see, the way most of 
us do manage is to live a life for sixty or 
seventy years, aging with makeup and 
some special aids, and then we arrange to 
'die,' one way or another, and start again 
somewhere else, at our 'normal ages. As 
you can see, I've just begun again, and it 
struck me that I could disclose my last in- 
carnation to anyone who could check the 
identification with an official source. It mighl 
remove any doubt." 

The law was still on their minds. Un- 
doubtedly, the fix was in; when it isn't, a 
good con will not operate. But perhaps il 
wasn't in far enough. 

Harrison was a stuck record. "But— but — 

"You people are clearly not group 
members," the boy said. "And we do 
have to limit our numbers. But we need 
intelligence — audacity — inventiveness — 
flexibility — all of which are genetic traits. I 
can check for that, if you'll allow me." 

Nobody thought of not allowing him. For 
twenty years old. he had enormous pres- 
ence The sort of presence you might ex- 
pect of someone three hundred and twelve 
years old, say. 

He took out a small penknife and some 
glassex slides. He jabbed my finger first, 
then Royce's, and then the reluctant Har- 
rison's, washing the knife with a damp cloth, 
smelling of disinfectant, between the jabs. 
He got us on the slides. 

He fished in his pockets again, when the 
knife was away, and took out a small gadget 
with a light in it. It looked like a miniature 
microscope, with ambitions toward be- 
coming an octopus some day. 

"Gene patterns in every cell," he mur- 

mured. "These will do quite nicely." 

He spent a long time staring at (he three 
glassex slides. When he looked up. he 
asked. "Does anyone here have official 

"For what?" Harrison said. He was still 
pale. Royce was just bewildered, as if his 
partner had suddenly turned into a giant 
hamburger, hold the pickle. 

"Fingerprint check," the boy said. "As I 
proposed. I'll tell you my present name, 
and my last one. You can get fingerprints 
for both, statted over any phone that will 
take stats, and compare for yourselves. Your 
source may have blink-comparator de- 
vices, or other mechanisms that will make 
identification quite certain. But I must cau- 
tion you to keep the motive for your curi- 
osity to yourselves. If anyone here has . . ." 

Harrison looked at Royce. and Royce re- 
turned the favor. But the boy clearly wasn't 
law — a fact which was, at last, sinking in. 

"I might — the local police — " Royce be- 
gan at last. 

As I said, the fix had to be in. Royce, 
Harrison, and several local police officers 
just had to be close friends. 

"Fine," the boy said. "I was afraid it might 
be Mr. Knave." 

I said it; "Afraid?" 

"Because I must tell you to leave now." 
he said firmly. "I don't think I have dis- 
closed anything so vital that I must kill you. 
If you tell the story, you won't be believed. 
But, well, I'm afraid you simply do not—" 

"And these men— if they aren't real — " I 

The boy sighed, "I am sorry." he said. 
"But, after all, two out of three! Gene pat- 
terns are conclusive. Originality, flexibility 
. . . at that, it's a real coup! One every cou- 
ple of years is closer to the average." 

"Now, wait a minute," I said, but Harrison 
and Royce cooperated in getting me out 
of there. Gently, politely, and very rapidly. 
I heard the boy say: "Of course you two 
will have to take new names — new identi- 
ties. I think you must be used to that. But 
we'll help, as we always do. As for your 
illegal activities, we've no interest in that. 
We take the long view. In fact, your profes- 
sion ought to be looked into. The qualities 
that go into such an 'invention' are, as you 
now know, the qualities we most require." 

The door shut, leaving me on the out- 
side. I didn't stay to listen. It didn't seem 
wise. I was home in half an hour. 

No immortality tor Gerald Knave. I des- 
perately needed consolation I brewed 
some strong, magnificent coffee, and I 

made a phone call, and soon I was not 

She loved the coffee, of course. Most 
people do. It's a talent. I will try to teach 
anybody who wants to learn, but failure is 
frequent. As with any other art form, the 
real basics can't be taught. 

He showed up a few hours later. 

"They had it, back in the hotel," he said. 
"Three hundred thousand apiece." 

I shrugged. "Fair." 

"Fair, hell," the boy said. "I ought to get 
half a million out of this one." 

I shrugged again. "Chalk the rest up to 
entertainment. Didn't you love the mad sci- 
entist rig?" 

"Mostly torn down when I goi there." he 
said. "They were moving out. naturally. 
But — oh. all right — call it even.'' He gave 
me a thick cash bundle. I still had the one 
Id brought along to the radiation center. I 
felt incredibly rich. 

"Maybe next time it'll be bigger."l said. 

"Maybe," he said. "I gather there'll be a 
next time — whenever you happen to feel 
like being entertained? Not that you need 
the money — " 

"I always need the money." I said stiffly 
"After all—" 

"Sure," he said. "The style to which you 
keep trying to get accustomed . . . Weil. 
I've got to get out of here anyhow. Got a 
date, and after that. I think I might head tor 
another continent for a while At the least " 

It sounded like a sensible idea. "Where 
did you tell them to go?" I asked. 

"Peru, Indiana," he said. "A couple ot 
rooms . . . registering as Royce and Har- 
rison. Wait two weeks for contact by a group 
member with proper equipment. I could only 
give them the preliminary dose." 

The dose consisted of gunpowder tea, 
brewed with hot peppers. I'd thought of 
adding oregano, but it seemed a bit too 
much, somehow. I had a question, but my 
lovely appointment got there first. 

"Why Peru. Indiana?" she asked, fasci- 
nated by me, by the boy, or by the money. 
Probably, I told myself, by all three; she 
fascinated easily. 

The boy shrugged at her. "Why not?" he 

She laughed. She was still laughing when 
the boy left— a valued friend at twenty-three, 
and thank God for him. 

"Tell me," she said. "Fingerprints. Not 
even you can tamper with someone's file. 
and he hasn't got your connections—" 

"I did no tampering," I said. "Didn't have 

to. Look, although the odds against two 
sets of fingerprints matching are some- 
thing like twenty billion to one, there are 
files existing trom maybe 1900 to date- 
files that were stored very neatly through 
the damned war. even — and those files in- 
clude a helluva lot more than twenty billion 

She stared. "But—" 

It had been a popular word all day. "Peo- 
ple don't realize it." I said. "Not even the 
police. And they won't, until they tangle with 
a case that rubs their noses in the fact. 
Fingerprints are old, solid, established, 
standard identification. And my young 
friend, it seems, can be identified— accu- 
rately — as himself, and as a man who died 
four years ago. age eighty-seven. In Chi- 
cago, as I recall." 

"Really?" she said. "I mean— legiti- 

"Legitimately." I told her. "Believe it or 
not, I tripped over it by accident. I was 
looking into hereditary fingerprint patterns 
and set a small computer to pull everything 
matching inside a fairly close range. And 
this kid's file popped out. Truly a good kid, 
and he loves his work. He's developed into 
a helluva actor— I never doubted him in 
that room. Not that there was anything to 
doubt. I knew. But. clearly nobody else 
doubted him either, for evidence of which — " 
I waved the money at her. Waving bundles 
of money at lovely women is an interesting 
hobby. "He's got awfully good at the thing, 
though of course we still need the identi- 
fication as a clincher." 

"But don't people ever check with one 
another?" she asked. 'And, well, if they do. 
and if they realize — " 

I smiled: total relaxation. "They keep it 
secret," I said. 'As requested. Damn it. I'd 
send them on their way convinced they 
were already immortal, it I didn't think I'd 
be contributing to the deaths ot people who 
might think they could regenerate after a 
beam or a slug. As it is. the truth dawns on 
them — or something near the truth — in two 
weeks, maybe three. In Peru, Indiana. And 
after that, they really want to keep it secret, 

"Right," she said, giving me back an 
identical smile. 

"By which time," I said, "we are all some- 
where else, of course. And without any need 
to take on any actual sort of job for a while." 

She sighed and shook her lovely head. 
"I will be damned," she said. 

"Conceivably," I said — and the rest of 
the day is none of your business. 



From loudspeakers mounted 
on their bows, the space ships 
began to blare identical 
messages in every human 
language . . . 

One day Ihe Earth found itself sur- 
rounded by space ships. 

These space ships were enormous and 
completely alien in design; they were op- 
erated by power so tremendous that their 
approach had not even been suspected 
by a single astronomer in the northern or 
southern hemisphere The ships had sim- 
ply materialized in uncanny multitudes all 
about the planet; and there they remained, 
with no outward signs of activity, for about 
twenty hours. 

On Earth, naturally, there was a good 
deal of activity— some of it frenzied. The 
nations buzzed back and forth to each 
other, ally reaching out with moist diplo- 
matic hand to ally, toe asking tentative, wide- 
eyed question of foe. 

Newspapers put out extras as fast as 
the presses could blink, and television net- 
works presented stammering scientists — 
all kinds of scientists: nuclear physicists, 
botanists, lield archaeologists, anatomy 
professors — in a tousled, bewildering 
succession Aimless, ugly riots broke out: 
churches and revival tents overflowed with 
worried worshipers; the suicide rate went 
up sharply. 

A boating party on Loch Ness swore in 
a group affidavit that they had been ap- 
proached by a sea serpent forty-eight feet 
long. II informed them in impeccable Eng- 
lish that it was a citizen of the star Arcturus 
and had arrived exactly two hours ago. It 
was pro-Labor and anti-vivisection. 


Everywhere, men. women and children 
shaded their eyes and stared hard at those 
areas of the sky most distant from ihe sun. 
Peepingly. they could discern the outlines 
of the strange craft, hanging like so many 
clusters of impossibly shaped grapes. In 
Ihe dark sections of Earth, the space ships 
glowed all nighl around their edges, throw- 
ing a thm network of yellow phosphores- 
cence against the purple heavens. 

People shuflled uneasily and asked their 
neighbors, their leaders, even strangers: 
"What does it mean? What do they want?" 

Nobody had the slightest idea, 

A radio-controlled space vehicle, built to 
explore the moons of tvlars. was sent up 
for a close look at the space ships. Shortly 
after it passed the outer limits of the at- 
mosphere, it disappeared completely; and 
no trace of it was ever found again A min- 
ute or so later, every single artificial sat- 
ellite orbiting the Earth also disappeared. 
No explosions, no blast from a new kind of 
ray— just, there Ihey all were one moment, 
and there they were not the next. 

It became obvious that if the creatures 
in the space ships wanted to conquer Earth, 
to enslave or exterminate its population, 
there was nothing to stop them Mankind's 
most powerful countermeasures would 
function like a fly swatter putting down a 
dynamite explosion. 

Nonetheless, nation after nation mobi- 
lized, airmen sat tensely in jet planes that 
were incapable of reaching one-hun- 
dredth the height of ihe space ships, gun 
crews of antiaircraft units piled shells near 
their weapons and waited lor Iheir radar 
operators to give them usable targel in- 
struclions. IBM sites, ABM sites, all ballis- 
tic missile sites, were put on red alert. Mar- 
tial law was proclaimed in Greenland, at 
Cape Horn, in the Andaman Islands, 

At the same time, men of good will all 

over Earth pointed out that Ihe inhabitanis 
of the space ships were probably crea- 
tures of good will. Their technology was 
much, much more advanced than the best 
that humanity had— why shouldn't Iheir so- 
ciology be equally advanced? If their ma- 
chines were belter, why shouldn't their eth- 
ics be better, too? Be intelligent, [he men 
of good will suggested earnestly; if these 
alien creatures had the means to come 
upon Earth so suddenly, they could prob- 
ably have overwhelmed it in the same 
flashing instant had they so desired, No, 
the men of good will decided at last, hu- 
manity had nothing to fear. 

Humanity, stubbornly, continued to fear. 

"AH those space ships. What do they 

There was a lot of activity in war colleges 
and government offices that day and night. 
Specialists in every field that in any way 
related to communications were collected 
by military press gangs and set to work at 
devices that might transmit or receive 
messages relative to the space ships. Ra- 
dio, blinker lights, even telepathy, were tried. 
Nothing worked Panic grew. 

At the end of twenty hours, each space 
ship simultaneously disgorged live smaller 
craft. These floated down to the surface of 
the planel and. upon landing, began to blare 
out from loudspeakers mounted on Iheir 
bows Ihe identical message; 

"Everybody oil Earth'." 

In Tibet, this message was blared in Ti- 
betan; in Norway, in Norwegian: around 
Lake Chad, in all the numerous Chad di- 
alecls: in certain pans of Ihe Uniied States 
ol America. "Everbody olfen the Yurth! And 
naow!" The message was the same wher- 
ever Ihe smaller craft landed, only il was 
spoken in Ihe tongue and idiom peculiar 
to Ihe region. 

"Everybody oft Earth!" 

For aboul half an hour ihese words were 
screamed at Ihe dumfounded humans who 
had gathered around the odd vessels. 
Then, abruptly, and all over Earth at ex- 
actly the same moment, openings ap- 
peared in various parts of these ships, and 
metallic creatures with dozens of metallic 
tentacles came out. These creatures, it was 
apparent to men still able to use their imag- 
inations, could be nothing but robots, me- 
chanical servants of thinking individuals in 
the space ships that still hovered miles upon 
empty hundreds of miles above the at- 

The robots began to collect people. 

They moved to a group of people — they 
moved extremely fast — and reached out 
with their tentacles, grasping a human 
gently but firmly around the waist with each 
one. When every tentacle held a kicking 
scratching, screaming human, each robot 
turned and marched back to its ship, re- 
peating forcefully, though a trifle monoto- 
nously, "Everybody off Earth— every- 

The people were set down carefully in a 
kind of hold inside Ihe ship and the robot 
left, after snapping the aperture shut be- 
hind it. Then it gathered more people, one 
lo each tentacle, and brought them, hys- 
terical or fainting or rigid with terror, to the 
hold of its ship. As soon as the captives 
began lo get crowded and uncomfortable, 
the vessel would dart upwards and be re- 
ceived into the larger ship from which it 
had come. There, the robots, still carefully. 
almost daintily, transferred the people in 
exactly the same fashion — one by one — 
to another, but much more immense hold 
in the mother ship. This hold had been fit- 
ted with tiers of cots like those of a troop 
transport, and every cot held a blanket and 
pillow made of some unrecognizable soft 
white material. When the transfer was 
complete, ihe small ships and its crew of 
robots went down for another load. 

All day, all night, the loading went on. In 
the holds of the large mother ships, those 
humans already stowed huddled in groups 
and stared upwards distractedly. Every lew 
minutes, the solid metal ceiling high above 
them developed an opening in the center, 
through which a bunch of wriggling, 
screeching people floated down. Then the 
ceiling melted together again and the new 
arrivals landed very gently on the rubbery 
floor, immediately asking frenzied ques- 
tions of the older inhabitants. 

What was going to be done with them? 
Why? Who was behind all this? Where were 

they going to be taken? Perhaps they were 
going to be ealen, and the vaulting hold 
that slretched enormously about them was 
a kind of extraterrestrial pantry? 

No one knew. Most of them shivered, ex- 
pecting the worst; a few speculated sanely; 
but no one knew. 

All night, all day, the loading went on. It 
was indiscriminate. No human boundaries 
were recognized. A load of Portuguese 
fishermen was deposited in the midst of a 
previous load of Chinese farmers from a 
collective in Kwantung. The Roman Cath- 
olic fishermen sank to their knees and fol- 
lowed an apoplectic Methodist minister from 
Albuquerque, New Mexico, in prayer; the 
ingratiating young chairman of Ihe collec- 
tive farm bustled about organizing a Marx- 
ist study group for a squeaking crowd of 
stylish matrons from Johannesburg, South 
Africa, whose Ladies' Aid Society meeting 
had been picked up en masse. 

When a hold contained enough people 
to occupy all the cots in it, the ceiling 
opened no more, and activity moved to an- 
other hold or another ship. Thus, half the 
Congress of the United States of America 
was dropped wholesale into the student 
body and faculty of the largest elementary 
school in Bucharest, while the other half 
vainly tried gaining information and estab- 
lishing authority among the surrounding 
Madras dirt farmers and the rather puz- 
zled inmates of a Damascus prison. 

The loading went on for five days and 
five nights. Nothing stopped the loading; 
nothing delayed it. Guided missiles with 
nuclear warheads not only disappeared just 
as they arrived at target, but their sources 
became the very next object of attention. 
Every last launching site in the Arizona 
desert and the Siberian tundra was visited 
and cleared a few minutes after it fired its 
rockets. Here and there, military detach- 
ments fought on valiantly to the end, their 
commanding officers watching in stupe- 
faction as bullets and shells bounced 
harmlessly off the alien robots who plod- 
ded patiently through murderous enfilad- 
ing fire on their way to pick up the occu- 
pants of regimental or divisional 

A thorough job was done. Submarines 
were brought to the surface and emptied 
of their crews; men at Ihe bottom of the 
world's deepest mine shafts, with their arms 
locked desperately about the supporting 
timbers, were gently but insistently pried 
loose by the robot tentacles and carried to 
a last open hold. 

Every living human on Earth was laken 
up to the alien space ships. But no ani- 
mals. The animals all remained behind, they 
and the empty fields and the tall forests 
and the seas that swirled unendingly along 
the white beaches of the world. 

When the loading was complete, the 
space fleet moved away as a unit. The ac- 
celeration was so smooth that few of the 
humans even suspected that they were 
under way. The space fleet moved away 
from Earth, away from our Sun, and plunged 
into Ihe black gulfs of the universe. 

Except for the shock of being torn from 
familiar environments so abruptly, the hu- 
mans aboard the ships had to admit they 
were not loo badly off. There were several 
water fountains in each hold; there were 
adequate plumbing facilities: the cots were 
quite comfortable and so were the tem- 
peratures maintained. 

Twice each day. exactly twelve hours 
apart, chimes were sounded and a dozen 
large soup tureens materialized in Ihe mid- 
dle of the floor. These tureens were filled 
with thick white dumpling-like objects bob- 
bing in a greenish liquid. The dumplings 
and the soup were apparently nourishing, 
and acceptable to the palates of a thou- 
sand different cuisines — though dismally 
boring as a steady diet. After everyone had 
eaten, the chimes sounded again and the 
tureens vanished: Ihey vanished like great, 
moistureless bubbles. And then there was 
nothing to do but wander about, try to learn 
your neighbor's language, sleep a little, 
worry about the future a little— and wait for 
the next feeding. 

It trouble started, as for example be- 
tween a factory of Australian steel workers 
and a tribe of Zulu warriors over the favors 
of some nurses from a Leningrad hospi- 
tal — if large trouble, incipient riot, mass 
fighting, ever got started — it was stopped 
immediately. A series of robots would ma- 
terialize through the floor, one after an- 
other, each one exactly like Ihe other. Each 
robot would grab as many individual bel- 
ligerents as ils tentacles could hold and 
keep them apart until the passage of time 
and the ridiculous position in which they 
found themselves brought ihe angry peo- 
ple back to a state of relative calm. Then, 
without making a comment or even a sin- 
gle illuminating gesture, the robots disap- 
peared, exactly like the soup tureens. 

They were certainly well taken care of. 
On that point, eventually, all agreed. But 
why? For whai purpose? 

Certainly, there seemed to be a sinister 

overtone to the hospitality they were en- 
joying. The care and concern lavished upon 
them, not a few noted darkly, were all too 
reminiscent of a farmer in a barnyard or a 
shepherd with a flock of fat, highly mar- 
ketable sheep. 

Or was it possible, the optimists argued, 
that these highly advanced aliens were 
mixing humanity in the melting pots of the 
holds deliberately? Having impatiently ob- 
served our squabbling and wars and hom- 
icidal prejudices, had they decided with a 
kind of godlike irritation to make of us one 
cohesive race once and for all? 

It was hard to tell. No alien ever mani- 
fested himself. No robot ever said another 
word, once the holds were closed. Despite 
the best efforts of all the inhabitants of a 
given hold, despite the untiring ingenuity 
of the human race in all of the ships, there 
was no communication between the peo- 
ple of Earth and their alien hosts for the 
entire lengthy voyage. 

All they could do was wonder — eat, 
sleep, talk, and wonder — as the fleet of 
enormous space ships traveled on and on. 
They went past star system after star sys- 
tem, they went past worlds in gaseous birth 
and worlds cracked and dead. 

And as the days passed — marked only 
by sleep periods and carefully rewound 
wristwatches — most people decided that 
the complete lack of communication, as 
well as the casual way they had been han- 
dled, suggested a contempt that was very 

Many great and minor changes took 
place among the inhabitants of the holds. 
The young Danish housewife who had been 
separated from her husband and children 
grew tired of fighting off the advances of 
the Trobriand Islanders about her and made 
her choice simply, in terms of the huskiest 
and most importunate of her suitors; the 
member-delegates of the United Nations 
Security Council gave up trying to effect a 
rapprochement with the gabardined fol- 
lowers of Chaim ben Judah-David, the 
wonder-working rabbi from the Williams- 
burg section of Brooklyn, and sat in bitter 
isolation in their corner of the hold, an- 
nouncing from time to time that they con- 
stituted the only world government legally 
capable of dealing with the aliens in the 
name of humanity as a whole. As soon, of 
course, as the aliens asked for such rep- 
resentatives . . . 

That was the rub, and all felt it to some 
degree, and felt it more and more as the 
days were marked off into weeks and the 

weeks into months. In the bowels of every 
one of them — diplomat and devout Has- 
idic Jew, pale woman from the shores of 
the North Sea and brown man from the 
wide Pacific ocean — nervousness about 
the future rattled and clattered. What was 
going to happen to them? What could the 
aliens want with the whole human race? 

Most of them did not know exactly when 
the ships came to their destination and 
stopped. The realization that the voyage 
was over came only when the holds opened 
above their heads and welcome sunlight 
roared in. Except that — once the first wildly 
happy cheers had died away — they no- 
ticed this was red sunlight, not yellow. 

And then there was the debarkation. 

Done with much less struggling, of 
course, much less screaming and fear-wet 
excitement. The robots were almost wel- 
comed as they reversed the process of a 
few months ago. Men and women, with a 
few neurotic or superstitious exceptions, 
fought to be the first picked up by the hard, 
shining, segmented tentacles and trans- 
ferred to the smaller ships that were at- 
tached to the sides of the large transports 
like so many baby spiders. 

When the small ships landed, the human 
cargo enthusiastically continued to help the 
robots as much as it could in its own un- 
loading. Ship after ship, now empty, sped 
back to the great fleet above for more hu- 
mans, while those who once again found 
themselves standing on soil and vegeta- 
tion looked about them. 

It was not Earth. That alone was certain. 

They were on a hard gray planet whose 
surface was broken by few of the hills and 
none of the mountains that most of them 
associated with topography. A rather dry- 
smelling grey planet, poor in oceans and 
barely stippled here and there with tiny, 
lake-like seas. A gusty grey planet without 
trees to shush the steady complaint of its 
winds. There were only broad-leaved, gritty- 
stemmed plants that grew anklehigh. 

All the colors were wrong. The plants 
looked like sick blue spinach. The sun 
above them was a liverish bronze, old and 
stained. The sky was made of bile — cloud- 
less, featureless essence of thick green bile. 

And on the night side, no moon floated 
through the absolutely unfamiliar constel- 
lations. It was deeply dark on the night side, 
and with the darkness a sharp stink belched 
from the ground-huddled plants. The stink 
was spread efficiently by the ever-wan- 
dering, ever-wailing winds. 

No, it was not Earth. It was not at all like 

Earth . . . Earth, so exceptionally far away. 

A Finnish farmer watched a small boy 
from Dakar tear off a limp blue leaf and 
munch on it experimentally. The boy spat 
out the leaf with an explosion of saliva and 
wiped his tongue furiously upon his arm. 
The farmer prodded a shoe into the ground 
and worried: Grey dust, that's all it is. What 
could I grow in it that I could eat? I don't 
have any seeds, but even if I did, could 
they grow in this damn dust? A New Zea- 
land sheep rancher bit deep into a finger- 
nail as he wondered: We didn't bring any 
herds with us, but say we had — what in hell 
would they be grazing on? No sheep in his 
right mind would go near those blue weeds. 
A Bolivian mining engineer arose from an 
examination of the soil and said to his 
nightgowned wile: "My first impression, and 
a pretty strong one, is that this planet is 
rich in copper — and not much else. Not 
that there's anything wrong with copper, 
you understand, only there's just so much 
you can do with it. You can't make type- 
writers out of copper . . . You can't make 
automobiles or airplanes out of copper." 

Men looked around in vain for wood that 
could be used to build houses, for stone 
with which to raise temples and alters and 
idols; they saw nothing but the green sky, 
the blue plants, and the grey, grey soil. 
Fishermen peered anxiously into the tiny 
seas and saw nothing swimming, nothing 
crawling, nothing wriggling; they saw only 
seaweed, purplish-blue seaweed floating 
in thin, ragged patches. 

A little boy from Chattanooga. Tennes- 
see, toddled up to his mother where she 
stood talking in a low voice to a group of 
worried neighbors. He tugged at her skirt 
until he attracted her attention. "It's an ugly 
world, Mommy," he told her decisively. "It's 
an ugly, no-good world, and I don't like it. 
I want to go home." 

She picked him up and hugged him to 
her, but before she could say anything — 
while she was still searching for words and 
thoughts — the robots started to build. 

They came down, the robots, from the 
great ships hanging motionless above, each 
carrying a section of a prefabricated 
dwelling. These they fitted together rapidly 
into immensely long barracks, filled with 
the familiar cots. Each long barracks held 
one shipload of people; each was fur- 
nished with toilets and water-fountains 
which bubbled good potable water; each 
had multitudes of tiny loudspeakers 
mounted along the walls and ceilings. 

When they had assembled the barracks. 

ihe robots herded the people into them. 
They spread their tentacles wide, and ihey 
insistently, patiently pushed people ahead 
of them through the entrances So many to 
a barracks, irrespective of age. sex, na- 
tionality, or family connection. When a bar- 
racks had been filled, the robots shunted 
the very next individual— husband, com- 
manding otticer. twin sister— into another 
and empty barracks. They were as effi- 
cient as ever. and. by this time most hu- 
man beings had learned il was useless to 
oppose them. The robots did their job well, 
gently and courteously for non-sentient 
creatures, but as ever, with the single- 
minded purposefulness of drones. 

The humans sat on the cots and waited 
until all ot them were housed. Then the ro- 
bots disappeared. In their place came the 
familiar soup tureens and the familiar 
dumplings. People everywhere ate. They 
ate their fill, glancing at each other side- 
ways and shrugging their shoulders. They 
finished, and the tureens disappeared. 

Now. for the firsl lime, the people of Earth 
heard the voice of the aliens, the owners 
and masters of the robots, the navigators 
of the grape-cluster ships. 

It was an explanation (at last, at last, an 
explanation!) and it came from the many 
little loudspeakers in the barracks. II was 
given simultaneously in every language ol 
mankind— you moved about the barracks 
until you found a speaker emitting words 
you understood— and it was listened to with 
great, almost frantic attention. 

To begin with, the aliens explained, it was 
necessary for us to understand how highly 
civilized they were. That was very impor- 
tant. It was the foundation, it was the basic 
reason for everything they had done. They 
were a civilized race, enormously civilized, 
anciently civilized, civilized beyond our most 
poetic dreams of civilization. 

We. as a race, were on the first stumbling 
steps of that civilization. We were primitive, 
insignificant, and — if we might pardon them 
for saying so — slightly ridiculous. Our 
technology was elementary, our ethical and 
spiritual awareness almost nonexistent. 

But we were a race of living creatures 
and we did have a speck, a promise, of 
civilization. Therefore, they had no alter- 
native: they had to save us. They had to 
go to all the trouble and expense we had 
witnessed and would witness in the future. 
As civilized creatures there was absolutely 
nothing else they could do. 

We should know that not all creatures in 
the universe were as civilized as they. Wars 

were fought, weapons were used. They 
themselves had recently developed, purely 
for purposes ol self-protection, a new 
weapon. . . . 

It was a frightful weapon. 3 shailering 
weapon, a weapon that smashed the con- 
stituents of time and space in a given area. 
They sincerely hoped never to have to use 
that weapon in actual warfare. Still, one 
never knew to what lengths an uncivilized 
enemy might go. 

The weapon had to be tested. 

It was impossible, given the terrible na- 
ture of the weapon, given its totally unpre- 
dictable aftereffects, to test it in any densely 
populated section of the galaxy. Further- 
more, in order to get a clear and scientific 
picture of Ihe weapon's potential military 
value, il was necessary to destroy an entire 
planet in the course of the test. 

The aliens had selected the site very 
carefully. They had selected a sparsely 
populated solar system, a very unimpor- 
tant plane! inhabited by an extremely 
backward race — a race so backward, in 
facl, that it was just now beginning to de- 
velop space travel. They had selected, in 
other words, a world of no conceivable 
value to anybody consulted, a world that 
no other race in the galaxy deemed at all 
desirable, an absolutely useless, second- 
rate nonentity of a world— our Earth. 

Here they would test their weapon. They 
would test it on a world whose total obliter- 
ation would not be noticed anywhere. 

But Earth was inhabited by a race which 
had intelligence wilhin, at least, the widest 
definilion of the term. And the aliens were 
civilized, highly civilized, ultimately civi- 
lized. They could not just destroy another 
race out of hand, no matler how primitive 
it might be. They had a responsibility to life 
itself, to the future, to history. 

So they had done this enormous, this 
expensive, this altruistic and unheard-of 
thing. At a cost so overwhelming that it could 
not be expressed at all in the limited fig- 
ures of human economics, they had evac- 
uated our entire planet. 

They had carried us all the way across 
the galaxy (hang the expense! never mind 
the expense! when they did a thing, they 
believed in doing it right!) to another planet 
which, while uninhabited, was as much like 
Earth as anything they could find in the 

Its size and weight were almost exacfly 
the same as Earth's— so we didn't have to 
worry about any difference in gravity. Its 
distance from the sun, its periods of rev- 

olulion and rotation were quite similar— our 
day-night systems and calendars would be 
little altered. 

All in all. a wonderful new home. 

Of course, there were some changes: no 
two planets were exactly alike. The atmo- 
spheric elements existed here in slightly 
different proportions: the water, while not 
poisonous, was effectively undrinkable: il 
would not be possible for a good long time 
to grow any edible plants in this soil. And. 
no doubt we had noticed, there weren't any 
animals on this world, nor were the mineral 
resources susceptible to exploitation by any 
techniques we had developed to date. 
However, taking the good with the bad, the 
bitter with the sweet, one way or another, 
sooner or later, they knew we would man- 
age. We had a brand new planet, a com- 
pletely untouched planet, a virgin planet, 
all for our very own. 

All we had to do was to learn how to use 
it properly. 

Meanwhile, ihey would noi desert us. 
Hadn't ihey fold us how civilized they were? 
No, however long it look us to get on our 
feet and become self-supporting, their ro- 
bots would be there to take care ol us. We 
could use the barracks (they were made 
of almost indestructible material) until we 
figured out a way to make some other kind 
of home on this world. And the soup kitch- 
ens would be running, day in and day out, 
serving the good white dumplings de- 
signed especially for us until we devel- 
oped some other more indigenous source 
of nourishment. 

But all this was for the future. We had 
had a long, tiring trip and probably did not 
want to worry about practical matters right 
now. How abbul a little entertainment? 
Something special, something none ol us 
had ever imagined we would see. 

Television screens appeared on the ceil- 
ings of the barracks, and humans turned 
baffled, cbnfused faces upwards. Outside 
the walls, everywhere, the wind howled 
stubbornly, unendingly. 

This was a rare treat, the aliens ex- 
plained through the loudspeakers, a once- 
in-a-thousand-years sort of thing, We would 
be able to tell our children and our chil- 
dren's children that we had seen it. at ex- 
actly the same time as other, much more 
advanced races throughout the galaxy. 
"Now, for the first time, and at the exact 
moment it occurs, you will witness the total 
destruction of a world — the planet Earth- 
in the course of an essential and epochal 
scientific experiment." 

Vickers was in Mogadishu when he turned the comer 
hardware stall and nearly knocked down the green won 


Harley Vickers hated Mogadishu — no! 
Ihat he hadn't been assigned worse duty 
stations. Kampala under Idi Amin. for ex- 
ample, from which he'd barely escaped with 
story and skin intact. Or Sowefo. South Af- 
rica's massive black slum, an ocean of 
misery and despair destined someday to 
explode in an orgy of violence the likes of 
which Africa had not seen since the time 
of the Zulu wars. 

No. he'd reported from worse places than 
Mogadishu, if not duller ones For fresh fruit. 
decent cooking, halfway reliable news 
broadcasts, and anything resembling en- 
tertainment, you had to take a four-wheel- 
drive vehicle south across the border to 
Nairobi. Mogadishu was devoid of such 
pleasures. His only delight lay in exploring 
the virgin beaches which stretched 
hundreds of kilometers northward toward 
the Gulf of Aden. The seacoast of Somalia 
was as beautifully rich as its people were 
abysmally, desperately poor. 

Poorer than ever because of the debili- 
tating effects of the seemingly endless war 
with their intractable and equally poverty- 
stricken neighbor, Ethiopia, A human tide 
of refugees washed back and forth across 
the disputed borders of the Ogaden des- 
ert, straining to the limits the resources of 
an economy that had never been strong. 

Vickers was half American, half English. 
He'd spent twenty years in Africa for UPI. 
twenty years which had blunted his early 
idealism by showing him to what extremes 
man could go in defense of personal idi- 
ocies. White or black, it was all the same. 
Hatred instead of understanding. Suspi- 
cion instead of conversation. He was tired. 

Four months he'd spent in Mogadishu, 
reporting on the relief efforts and the Oga- 
den futility, He was ready for a change— 
a change to anywhere. Cairo, if he was 
lucky, or Nairobi, or even frenetic and al- 
ways exciting Lagos. Anywhere but here. 
he thought as he made his way through 
the marketplace toward his apartment. He 
was sick to death of the corruption and 
arrogance he'd been forced to deal with in 
the course of writing his reports. Besides, 
he'd said everything there was to say about 
the Somalian situation. He'd been in the 
business long enough to know when his 
work was getting stale. 

That's when he turned the corner by the 
hardware stall and nearly knocked down 
the green woman. 

As she stumbled, her veil fell away from 
her face, which was as exquisite as an em- 
erald, and as richly hued. She hurriedly 

fixed the shielding gauze and dashed into 
the crowd. A stunned Vickers could only 
stare after her. 

Then, shoving his way through the mob 
of marketers, he was running in pursuit 

"Hey . . . hey you, wait a minute! Wait!" 
He knew she heard him because more than 
once she glanced back to see if he was 
still chasing her The crowd was thick and 
prevented him from closing, but it also kept 
her within view 

He lost her on the other side of the mar- 
ketplace when she climbed, not into a don- 
key cart or camel howdah, but into a late- 
model Land Rover. The driver floored the 
accelerator and they roared along the nar- 
row road, leaving Vickers out of breath and 
anxious amid the rising cloud of dust. 

The image had not faded, nor had the 
shock. The woman's face was vivid in his 
mind. It was not her exceptional beauty 
that transfixed him, however, as much as 
her extraordinary coloring Hers wasn't the 
olive complexion of Aegean visitors or the 
coffee tone of many multiracial residents 
of Mogadishu. She was a bright, cheerful 
green— as brilliant as a St Patrick's Day 

If it was due to the use of makeup or 
body paint, it was the most remarkable job 
of either he'd ever seen. When she'd blinked 
at him after their collision, he saw that even 
her eyelids were the same electric shade 
of green 

A blessing, a gift from Allah, a reward 
for his noble and virtuous life, the taxi waited 
for him around the block. It wasn't hard to 
pick up the trail of the Land Rover The few 
motorized vehicles that utilized the streets 
of Mogadishu usually kept to the harbor 
front or diplomatic quarter and ignored 
these back streets. 

The taxi driver earned his fare as they 
tracked the fleeing Rover through narrow 
brick alleys and down dirt avenues. Only 
when the Land Rover emerged from the 
city's outskirts did the driver finally con- 
cede the race. 

"I am sorry, Effendi. The road go no more, 
I go no more." His English was broken, but 
to the point. 

Vickers knew arguing would be futile. In 
truth, the driver had pushed his battered 
Citroen to its limit. Beyond lay a track suit- 
able only for camels and four-wheel-drive 
vehicles. The taxi wouldn't last a mile on 
that bone-breaking path to nowhere. Vick- 
ers watched until the Land Rover sank into 
the evening horizon before giving the or- 
der to turn about and return to the city. 

All night that glowing green face haunted 
him. Except for her coloring, the young 
woman had classic features common to 
this part of Africa— part black, part Arab, 
a delicious and exotic mix. 

As far as his news assignment was con- 
cerned, Vickers had considerable discre- 
tion. So long as he filed his stories on 
deadline and didn't abuse his budget, he 
was free to go where he wished and report 
on the subject of his choice. His nearest 
superior sat behind a desk on Fleet Street. 

I'll give them something interesting to 
print, he mused. A bright green lady — yes, 
that ought to perk the Times' interest, as 
well as that of the Daily News and The Star 

It wasn't too difficult to retrace the Land 
Rover's progress from the point where it 
had fled the city. Cars outside the city lim- 
its were as rare as compassion. He was 
undaunted by the task he'd set for himself. 
Many times he'd spent weeks in the bush, 
living in the back of his own Land Rover. 

Before leaving Mogadishu he'd packed 
in enough food, water and petrol to keep 
him going for a month, though he didn't 
imagine he'd be gone that long. From what 
he'd seen of his quarry, she didn't appear 
to be nearly so extensively provisioned. 

The road took him through Balad toward 
Johar. along the Wadi Shebelle, dry most 
of this time of year. The outside tempera- 
ture was hellishly hot. The Rover's air con- 
ditioner hummed in protest as it fought back 
the searing heat. 

Inquiries along the road caused him to 
turn toward the coast northward before 
reaching Johar and then on through Marek 
and Harardera. Even a camel track was a 
welcome path in the wilderness. 

In Obbia an imperious army captain tried 
to commandeer Vickers' spare petrol. Only 
the waving of his UPI identification and 
government pass got him through to Id- 
dan. He was nearing Migiurtinia Province 
without having closed on his quarry and 
began to wonder if he wouldn't have to drive 
all the way to Cape Guardafui. He was hot 
and tired and seriously considering whether 
he ought to pack it in when he saw the 
green woman again. 

Except ... it wasn't the same woman 

He saw her selling fish in one of the tiny 
palm-frond stalls lining the dock area of 
Garad, a fishing village. Her veil was off — 
because of the heat. Vickers surmised. 
Maybe she'd been beautiful once, but age 
and a hard life had turned her skin to 
parchment. She was older than the woman 
who had brought him this far, much older. 

More intriguing still were the two bright 
green children he saw playing on the beach, 
dashing down to the water's edge in the 
company of other, normai-hued children, 
then running back to dance around the 
older lady's legs. Their grandmother maybe. 
Vickers thought as he brought the Land 
Rover to a stop. 

The children clustered around it. touch- 
ing the sides, bending to inspect the mud- 
caked undercarriage Garad was an iso- 
lated community and the Land Rover was 
as much a novelty as the white man who 
drove it. As an astonished Vickers studied 
the two green youngsters, all thoughts of 
special paint and makeup were discarded. 
They were seven or eight years old, a bright- 
eyed boy and mischievous little girl, both 
of them green from head to toe. Only their 
eyes, nails and body hair were exempt from 
the remarkable coloring, although the nails 
did have a greenish cast to them. 

Vickers climbed down, made sure the 
door was locked, and smiled at them. They 
stared back at him. innocent of deception 
or guile. The little girl kept one finger in her 
mouth and stayed close to the boy Brother 
and sister, most likely. 

He cleared his throat and tried his Swa- 
hili, hoping it would be enough. His Arabic 
was tolerable, his Amharic much less so. 
They understood. Vickers asked where 
they came from. They pointed inland. Was 
that their grandmother over there in the stall, 
selling fish? No. an aunt. He hesitated only 
momentarily. Why were they such an un- 
usual color? 

Because they were fortunate enough to 
be among the Chosen. 

It was some kind of sect, then. Some- 
thing interesting had come lo the wastes 
of northern Somalia. Yet there was nothing 
reticent in the children's manner, no at- 
tempt to hide anything. Mot that there was 
any need to They were protected from the 
attention of the outside world by an isola- 
tion unimaginable to Londoners or even the 
citizens of Nairobi. Only a chance glimpse 
in a crowded marketplace had sent Vick- 
ers probing their sanctuary. 

Inland, they said. Could they be more 
specific? With camel and jackass the fast- 
est local means of transportation, Vickers 
knew it couldn't be very far. Surely, Mzungu. 
they told him. One has only to follow the 
Wadi Omad toward the setting sun to come 
to the place of the Chosen, where they lived 
with the rest of their village. 

Not true nomadic types, then, Vickers 
mused. He thanked them and climbed back 

into the Land Rover. Laughing children fol- 
lowed in its wake as it rumbled forward, 
turned eastward beyond the last fish stall, 
and headed inland. 

The wadi he struggled lo follow was 
nearly dry. Only a thin trickle cut its center 
like a silver thread, Antelope tied from his 
approach. Vickers ignored them. 

It was nearly dark when he turned up 
out of the little canyon. Lengthening shad- 
ows revealed a gentle slope scarred by tire 
tracks. They led him up to the beginnings 
of the savanna. Thorn trees fought for the 
soil's moisture. Scrub brush provided 
homes for snakes and kangaroo rats. Tow- 
ering above them all were the gleaming 
metal skeletons of three windmills. 

No Quixote in his Land Rover. Vickers 
frowned as he pushed toward the cluster 
of mud and rock structures nestled be- 
neath the towers There weren't supposed 
to be any European outposts this far north. 
All the refugee centers were further inland, 
along the Ethiopian border, or south to- 
ward Mogadishu. Nor could he recall men- 
tion of any scientific stations or outposts in 
this region. 

The windmills were of two types. One 
served to bring up water, the other two 
mounted windchargers for the generation 
of electricity. Indeed, it was unusually cool 
here. A steady breeze blew up the wadi 
from the sea. In the morning the wind prob- 
ably reversed as the land heated up again. 

A few lights showed inside the largest 
building. It was one story, cobbled to- 
gether out of corrugated steel sheets, lo- 
cal stone, and mud. Lumber was as scarce 
in this part of the world as Chateaubriand. 

He slowed the Rover to a halt and climbed 
out. Set among the brush and trees, off to 
his left, was a sizable native village. It looked 
deserted As he stood there against the 
oncoming African night, a peculiar susur- 
ration reached his ears He started toward 
it, lopped a low rise, and came to a halt. 

What was probably the entire population 
of the village — men. women and chil- 
dren — lined the crest of Ihe next ridge. They 
faced the setting sun with heads back and 
arms outstretched. The local witch doctor 
or chief was leading them in a hypnotic, 
melodious chant. 

And every one of them was stark naked 
and bright green. 

A hand tapped the middle of his back. 
He whirled, sucking in his breath, his hand 
reaching instinctively toward the pistol at 
his waist. It stayed holstered as he stared. 
It was the woman he'd seen in Mogadishu. 

Her veil was gone. So was the stifling 
chador. Now she wore khaki slacks, san- 
dals, and a bush shirt. Her black hair trailed 
behind her. Face and exposed arms and 
hands were as green as those of the chant- 
ing villagers behind him. 

"You are very persistent, sir." she said in 
heavily accented English. 

His hands moved self-consciously away 
from the holster. "What is this place? Who 
are you, and who," he gestured toward the 
villagers, "are these people? And why does 
everybody here look like something out of 
a summer salad?" 

She hesitated briefly, then laughed and 
hid her face for a moment. "You very funny 
man, sir." 

A sudden thought made him say, "I hope 
I didn't offend you in any way." 

"You did not. Come." She gestured to- 
ward the big house. "You must meet the 

For a minute he thought she'd said "Cu- 
bans" and he almost panicked. She turned 
to smile brilliantly at him. Her teeth were 
not pointed and were gratifyingly white. 

"Please, sir. You will like them, the old 
mister and missus." 

Mister and missus. That didn't sound very 
threatening. He moved up alongside her. 
Besides, he hadn't driven across hundreds 
of kilometers of desolation to run away at 
the moment of enlightenment. 

"Tell me," he said as they approached 
the entrance to the major edifice. "Are you 
. . are all these people of the 'Chosen'?" 
"Oh most assuredly so, sir. That is what 
the missus doctor tell us." Then she added 
proudly. "My name is Rala. I speak English 
and have read real books, so I am assist- 
ant to them. It is me they send into the city 
to buy things for them." 

"Not only do you speak excellent Eng- 
lish, Rala, but you are also very beautiful " 
"Thank you, sir." She blushed, and her 
cheeks turned the most extraordinary color. 
There was nothing mysterious about the 
room she ushered him into. The furniture 
appeared to be of local manufacture, 
handmade and comfortable. A radio/tape- 
deck rested on a bookcase shelf, playing 
unusually muted Chavez. DC-powered 
lamps lit the room, drawing energy from 
wind-charged batteries. 

An elderly European lady sat on the 
couch, flipping the pages of a paperback 
book. She looked up as they entered. So 
did the man seated at the desk across the 
room. Both were in their late sixties or early 
seventies, Vickers decided. 

The man rose to greet him. "Hello, hello. 
You're the first visitor Mary and I have had 
in some time." He smiled and extended a 
hand. To Vickers' relief, it was the same 
color as his own. "I'm Walter Coban." 

"And I'm Mary." said the grandmotherly 
woman on the couch. 

"Harley Vickers, United Press." 

"A reporter. Yes, I think I've read some 
of your stories, Mr, Vickers," said Mrs. 
Coban. "You've done a lot ot work about 
the refugee problem." Vickers nodded "You 
strike me from your work as an honest, even 
empathetic man." 

"I write what I see," he said diffidently. 

"And what do you see now?" 

"Something I don't understand." 

She smiled a soft, maternal smile. "You 
must be tired, Mr. Vickers. Thirsty and hun- 
gry as well. We haven't had company for 
dinner in, oh, I can't remember when Mow. 
since you obviously haven't come all this 
way to return empty handed, we'll have to 
supply you with understanding, won't we? 
So you must also accept our hospitality." 

He couldn't keep himself from grinning 
back at her. There was a mystery here, yes, 
but hardly danger. Besides, he was sick of 
eating out of cans. 

"I bow to your demand," 

"Please have a seat." She patted a 
cushion. "Here, next to me," Vickers joined 
her. Her husband vanished into a back room 
and reappeared a moment later, juggling 
three tall glasses He gave Vickers one. 

The reporter took a cautious sip. then 
his eyes lit up and he drank deeply "Lem- 
onade! With ice'. Bless you both. Where 
did you get this?" 

"By boat, from the south." The old man 
was smiling. "Rala does what she can for 
us in Mogadishu, but you know how limited 
the city's resources are. For real food you 
have to go farther afield. The lemons came 
ofl a trading dhow out of Malindi." 

"Excepting seafood," his wife put in. "We 
get the most marvelous seafood here. Rala, 
lobsters tonight." The girl nodded, looked 
unhappy, and disappeared through an- 
other door. 

The thought of a lobster supper already 
had Vickers salivating "Really, no need to 
go to any expense on my account." 

"Expense? My dear boy. lobsters are 
cheaper here than onions. Eat your fill," 

The girl's sudden look of dismay had 
stayed with him. "When you proposed the 
main course, Rala made a face. Doesn't 
she like lobster?" 

"Not particularly." said Coban. "Matter 


of personal taste. It's all what you're used 
to, you know." 

"I hope 1 never get that blase." Vickers 
told him. The cold lemonade had done 
wonders for his parched throat. "You 
promised me understanding, Mrs. Coban. 
For me, that means information and expla- 
nations. I sure could use some. What is this 
village, and why do its people refer to 
themselves as the Chosen'' Why are they 
all green, and what the blazes are you two 
doing in this godforsaken piece of real es- 
tate?" He blinked and wiped his eyes. 

Husband and wife exchanged a glance. 
Coban sat down in the chair opposite the 
couch and explained 

"Mary and I did our early work at the 
University of Arizona in Tucson, Mr. Vick- 
ers. Most of the time we worked at night 
and on our own— due to the controversial 
nature of our project. We tried to publish, 
but met only with skepticism and dispar- 
agement. That often happens in science, 
and it's no less pretty than in any other 
discipline We persisted with our work. 
Eventually our funds were cut off and we 
had to resign our professorships. 

"Our interests lie in the vital field of food 
research, Mr. Vickers. in particular as it ap- 
plies toward relieving distress in the desert 
regions of the world That is why we orig- 
inally went to work in Arizona. We worked 
for a long time with jojoba and other native 
desert plants before we realized we were 
attacking the problem from the wrong end, 
as researchers have been doing for a 
hundred years. 

"Six years after we shifted the focus of 
our efforts, we believed we had found a 
method by which mosl of the world's food 
shortages could be alleviated We met with 
the same kind of cruel indifference and 
hostility which had greeted our earlier work. 
It is impossible, Mr. Vickers, to do con- 
structive work in an atmosphere of ridicule. 

"So we sought a place to work in peace 
and apply our theories where they might 
do some good. We came here, and our 
assistance was needed desperately. Rala 
and her people were starving when we 
stumbled upon them, Mr. Vickers. The na- 
tive residents of Gala are decent human 
beings, but you cannot share food you do 
not have. 

"Our project is being funded by several 
farseeing. wealthy Arizonans. They have 
let us work without interference. Great men, 
Mr. Vickers I will give their names later, to 
use in the story you will write. 

"Am I going to write a story, then?" he 

murmured The old man's tale was inter- 
esting as far as it went, but he still hadn't 
supplied Vickers with any real answers. 
Were they putting him off deliberately, or 
was Coban simply verbose? He rubbed at 
his eyes again The endless, desperately 
dull drive had exhausted him. He wasn't 
even sure he'd be able to stay awake 
through supper, 

"Yes, you are, Mr. Vickers," Coban went 
on. "Both Mary and I have agreed that it 
is time. Your appearance here might be 
regarded as fate, if 1 believed in such things. 
And Mary has read your work, and re- 
spects it. That's good enough for me. You 
will tell the world of our little success out 
here in the desert. We have done what we 
hoped could be done " 

"What's that?" Vickers asked. "Form a 
new religion? I saw your bare-assed vil- 
lagers out there when I drove up. Songs 
don't relieve the emptiness in a mans belly.'' 

Coban smiled and his wife laughed de- 
lightedly. "Oh, Mr. Vickers, the chanting is 
for fun. It's not important to the process." 

"What process?" Vickers mumbled. He 
really was tired, he realized 

"They weren't praying. Mr. Vickers." 
Coban told him. "They were eating." 

Vickers eyed him warily, "Eating? . . . 
Eating what 7 " 

"Supper, I should think. Old habits don't 
die easily." 

His wife watched Vickers sympatheti- 
cally. "Perhaps it will be clear to you if I 
explain our history in more detail. I am a 
geneticist and Walter is a microbiologist. 
When we put aside our work with desert 
plants many years ago. it was to concen- 
trate on plankton Those are the tiny, ocean- 
going life forms which support much of the 
life in the sea. We thought of releasing 
plankton in shallow salt ponds throughout 
the world's desert regions and raising it 
like soup. 

"While working with this idea we hap- 
pened across an interesting and rather 
common tittle freshwater coelenterate 
named Hydra viridis. This particular hydra, 
unlike its relatives, exists in a symbiotic re- 
lationship with a wonderful alga called 
chlorella. Chlorella is photosynthetic. Mr 
Vickers, but it is more than that. In addifion 
to producing its own food, it will also pro- 
duce enough to keep its host alive. 

"When chlorella is not present, the hydra 
is forced to eat solid food just like its white 
relatives." Her husband rose and exited 
through a back door again. 

"We became very excited, Mr Vickers," 

she continued. "We thought how wonder- 
ful it would be if we could genetically en- 
gineer a strain of chiorella to be a symbiont 
with man We succeeded. The production 
of food per acre of arable land is no longer 
a valid problem, Mr. Vickers. Countries lite 
India and China can have as many people 
as they wish. With our friendly alga as a 
partner, everyone on Earth can produce 
enough food for his or her own body. 

"Think of the peripheral problems our 
discovery will solve! Everyone will be a 
pleasant shade of green. No more raising 
and slaughtering of animals for food. We're 
extremely proud of what we've accom- 
plished. Mr Vickers Can you blame us 7 " 

"If you're so proud of what you've done, 
why haven't you and your husband taken 
advantage of it 7 Vickers asked "Or is it 
suitable only for ignorant refugees? Mind 
you. I don't buy a word of it." 

"Oh. we wouldn't expect a reporter of 
your experience and stature to believe 
anything so fantastic wrihout incontrover- 
tible proof, Mr. Vickers. Rest assured you'll 
have that proof. 

'As regards your first question. " Coban 
continued "1 am sorry to have to say that 
once a person has reached the age of fifty 
or fifty-five . we're still not positive where 
the line falls the alga does not adapt 
to its human host. We believe it may have 
something to do with the decreasing pro- 
duction of fibroblasts as the body ages 
With anyone younger than fifty, there's no 
difficulty m inducing the alga to take up 
residence m the dermal layers. Further- 
more, the alga is transferred via embryonic 
fluids to the newborn. Chiorella even re- 
sponds to artificial light, which enables one 
to produce food at night, if so desired." 

Vickers leaned back against the couch, 
hardly able to keep his eyes open. 

"More lemonade, Mr Vickers?" 

Lemonade Cool, icy lemonade. Tired, 
so tired. Shouldn't be this tired, drive not- 
withstanding. Made up the lemonade m the 
other room . . . 

"Why?" he said thickly as he slid rapidly 
toward darkness. "I thought . . you said 
. . . you wanted your story told?" 

"Oh, you misunderstand, Mr. Vickers," 
she said solicitously, bending over him and 
inspecting his face with a clinical eye. "We 
haven't done anything harmful to you. Just 
put you to sleep, You need a good night's 
sleep, don't you? In the morning you'll have 
the proof you require for your story. Think 
of the headlines you're going to have. Mr. 
Vickers! hunger eliminated! . . . food 


Think of it, Mr. Vickers. You're going to be 
the most famous reporter in history. You 
won't be able to help it. . . 

The sun woke him, shooting through the 
window shades. He was in bed. a real bed 
with a mattress and clean sheets. 

Last night came back in a rush. Lem- 
onade, chanting, ice. smiling old folks a 
little more than what they seemed, drugged, 

He sat up fast, relieved thai he could do 
so Everything seemed to work. Experi- 
mentally he flexed his arms, then his legs. 
Everything was in place. The only thing out 
of the ordinary was a tingling in his right 
forearm, near the elbow. 

He looked at his right arm — and 

Walter Coban appeared at the door, 
looking concerned "You startled us, Mr 
Vickers. Are you all right"?' 

"All right? All right! Look at me!" 

Coban did so. professionally. 'A very nice 
shade, Mr. Vickers, if I may say so." 

Vickers was holding his head in his 
hands, rocking back and forth, moaning, 
"Why"' Why me 7 Why did you have to do 
this to me?" 

"Take it easy Mr. Vickers. You're a Strong 
man You'd have to be a strong man to 
have survived all these years in Africa You 
can handle a little sea change like this. 
Besides, the effect needn't be permanent 
Were you to spend a few weeks in dark- 
ness, your old. useless color would return. 

"Don't you recall our conversation last 
night 7 You said, despite what you'd seen, 
that you didn't believe anything we told you, 
We promised to supply you with unargu- 
able proof of our discovery. You're going 
to need it m order to convince your editors 
back in London. This way. they'll believe 
you, Mr. Vickers. Even those skeptics in 
the scientific community who ridiculed us 
will have to believe you. after you've done 
nothing but sit in the sun and starve your- 
self tor weeks on end without getting hun- 
gry or losing any weight. They'll believe 
you because you'll be your own proof, Mr. 

"Side effects ." Vickers groaned. "What 
about side effects?" 

"We've studied the symbiotic relation- 
ship for many years now. There are no 
harmful side effects. Without the change 
in skin color, you d never know the chio- 
rella was present in your body . . Oh. there 
is one thing 

"You remarked on our assistant Rala's 
apparent distaste for the proposed lobster 
supper 7 Her disgust? You ll discover be- 
fore long that the thought of ingesting solid 
food will make you nauseous, except for 
the tasteless vitamin and mineral supple- 
ments you have to take. Photosynthesis 
doesn't supply quite everything the human 
body needs. 

Vickers licked his lips and said mo- 
rosely, "but I like eating, f like lobster, and 
steak, and fried chicken." 

"Superficial pleasures at best. You'll see. 
No worrying about what to eat anymore. 
Mr Vickers Think of the money you'll save. 
Think of the extra time you'll gain each day 
In return for spending a little time in the 
sun Photosynthesis may not be an exhil- 
arating way of obtaining nourishment, but 
it's a highly efficient one." 

Heedless of his nakedness. Vickers slid 
out of bed. There was a half-length mirror 
fastened to the far wall. He gazed in 
amazement at his lime-green self. Now that 
the initial shock had faded, he found the 
soft, pastel coloring almost relaxing to look 
upon They might not believe right away 
when he strolled casually into the London 
office, but they would certainly sit up and 
take notice. 

He found himself wondering if Rala would 
find it attractive 

"Try not to take it so hard. Mr. Vickers." 
said Coban soothingly "I envy you, you 
know Mary and I are the discoverers — fhe 
ones who did the dirty, rewardless leg- 
work. You are to be the herald of a new 
age You should be proud Before you die. 
everyone will look like you, Everyone will 
be a member of the Chosen." 

Coban was right, Vickers knew. The sys- 
tem was too efficient, too benign, to be 
denied The only problems in gaining 
widespread acceptance would be psy- 
chological, and he was as sure now as 
Coban that these could be overcome. After 
all. the human body was already a reser- 
voir of living things, from bacteria to more 
complex organisms. Why should anyone 
object to a few more visitors, especially 
visitors as beneficial as chiorella? 

It really was a most handsome color, he 

Coban saw the change come over his 
guest and relaxed. "There, it's not so bad, 
is it? We're simply becoming one of our 
many fantasies, Mr, Vickers. and what a 
promising fantasy it has turned out to be. 
We have met the little green men from outer 
space, and they are us." 

think immortality and its necessary companion, zero-population growth, 
the ultimate ideal, but not after reading "Malthus's I 
with sensitivity and good storytelling style, depicts a society in which 
babies are created only rarely — and only as replacements for accidental 
fatalities. Absolute birth control (by the state) is seen to bring widespread 
anguish. This is one of those SF stories with numerous, mind-expanding 
ramifications. For example, it suggests certain questions: "What kind of 
a world would it be without little children?" and "Can there be life as we 
know it without death?" 

In John Keefauver's story, "buuy do, uymy 10 u 
concern. The protagonist is not faced with issues of morality but whether 
or not his life is worth living. His problem is having too much of a good 

"Prime Time" by Norman Spinrad is a well-pointed tragicomedy con- 
cerning an aged husband and wife who choose a retirement of nearly 

ously via videotapes. Spinrad's broad-sweeping and satirical allenorv 
suggests that you can't get to heaven through a TV sci 

"In the Hereafter Hilton" is a story by Bob Shaw in w..,„, 
a new mode of capital punishment that at once saves the convicted 
murderer from the awful foreknowledge of death while assuaging any 
guilt feelings on the part of judge, jury, prosecuting attorney, or public. 
A perfect solution, that is if you don't value the truth. 

"And Whether Pigs Have Wings" is a morality tale, which surrealist- 
ically involves human frailties and suggests that through wondrous ways 
this "little world" may still achieve "salvation." Nancy Kress is mistress 
of the thoughtful sentence, e.g., "Such men always have cigarettes" 
and "Anything too organized will defeat its own purpose." 



They had a nearly 

perfect world, where babies were 

the best possible reward 


I he news came while 
Janica was light-sculpting, with Sylvie hovering 
nervously about the perimeter and trying to 
make herself useful, 

That was typical of both of them; Janica, at 
that point in her life, anyway, lived her art, while 
Sylvie's reason for transferring to Pavlova Vil- 
lage was to sit al the feet — often literally — of 
one of the acknowledged virtuosos of the new- 
est and most demanding multidiscipline. 

So. characteristically. Janica stood cool and 
elegant in her chartreuse paint-dye and pro- 
jectors, while Sylvie jittered, checking all the 
last-minute details — were the projectors per- 
fectly in synch, perfectly centered on wrist and 
forehead and ankle, perfectly aligned?— over 
and over. (Most light-sculptors were content with 
three or at most four projectors, wrists and fore- 
head, say, or, more difficult, wrists and ankles. 
But Janica was never content with fewer than 
five, and sometimes, with a contemptuous ca- 
sualness that literally awed her young acolyte, 
she added a sixth at the waist.) 

But once the music started, it was Sylvie who 
stood, unmoving, scarcely breathing, while 
Janica's body swayed in delicate interpretation 
of the plaintive melody that filled the studio. 


"Greensleeves." sang a poignant young 
girl's voice, "is my delight . , ." 

And Janica danced, a sad, slow weav- 
ing of loss and loneliness; as she moved, 
the projectors left their trails of living light, 
ribbons of color, thick and dark for slow, 
deliberate movements and thin and light 
for the quick leaps and pirouettes. 

This one, Sylvie thought, this one is going 
to be . . . 

The strident brr-rrring of a wrist-coin 
shrilled through the soft singing, and Jan- 
ica jerked, destroying the smoothness of 
the furls of solidifying light. 

Janica's silver-rimmed eyes widened just 
slightly. Then she moved, still with that fe- 
line, sinuous grace, to the shelf where her 
personal items were neatly placed. But the 
red light wasn't blinking; it stared at them. 
a continuous crimson leer. 

"Override." Sylvie was puzzled. 

"Official override." Janica retorted and 
smiled slowly, and her thumb pushed down. 

"Citizen Janica Petain-Suharto." said the 
life-size, vaguely familiar holo-image that 
appeared, "as your officially compute- 
lected representative . . ." 

The news was all over the village in min- 
utes, and it was the main topic of conver- 
sation for weeks— except among those few 
individuals who were, or pretended to be, 
indifferent. Janica herself was completely 
blase. It was, as she occasionally re- 
minded her neighbors, her second time. 

Sylvie was positively green with envy. Her 
mind kept producing harmless scenarios. 
Janica miscalculating one of her unnatu- 
rally high leaps, breaking her leg, and being 
rushed immediately to a hosp. 

The entire village exposed to some mys- 
terious neoviral disease (nonfatal and 
eventually curable, of course!); only Sylvie, 
through an odd mutant quirk in her phys- 
iology, both immune and a noncarrier . . . 

Even Sylvie knew they were only dreams. 
Nothing bad or sad would ever happen to 
Janica, proud darling of the powers that 
be; or to Phil, either. But who ever noticed 
Phil, when Janica. sleek and elegant, was 
in view? Besides, this was Phil's first. 

"But isn't it exciting!" Sylvie whispered 
to her new termhus, Ray. 

Ray, older and far more experienced, 
yawned and switched channels on the holo 
that displayed over their double bed. "Yeah, 
sure, but it's not as if we were chosen, hon. 
You'd do better to watch it on the holo; you'll 
see more." 

"Oh, pooh, stodgy old thing," she pouted. 

'Janica is my friend, I'm sure she'll invite 
me to — well . . ," 

"Yuck." He rejected all Ihe choices and 
reached for his termwife. 

One hour before M-day they officially 
closed off all the transmatters in the vil- 
lage — except for one, (There were no 
fences around the village, but with the 
ubiquilous transmatters making another 
continent a step away, who knew— or 
cared — if the nearest village was physi- 
cally a kilometer away — or a hundred?) 

As M-day began, in the darkness at least 
half of the villagers were crowded around 
the single functioning transmatter. The sees 
made the people keep a wide opening 
around the machine. 

At precisely midnight the transmatter 
glowed, and shapes solidified. At first the 
curious walchers saw only a team of white- 
clad medics; but as they moved, glimpses 
of a seated carrier, floating at about chest 
height, were caught. 

The chief medic identified himself to the 
security chief. Although both teams worked 
in shifts, they had undoubtedly met each 
other on numberless similar midnights. Still, 
you didn't get to be a security chief by being 
careless. All the medics were checked 
out — the checks carefully designed not to 
break the integrity of the sealed suits — 
and the security chief herself ran through 
the checks on the chief medic. 

Once the checks were completed, the 
chief medic took over. Leaving guards at 
the transmatter, which would be sealed until 
M-day ended, the cortege turned toward 
Phil and Janica's cottage. 

Phil stood proudly at ihe front of the mob. 
As soon as the medic was certified, Phil 
stepped forward. "I'm the — " 

"Get back," a security guard snarled, 
just as if he hadn't helped check Phil out, 
along with the rest of the watchers, not half 
an hour before. 

Phil stopped, puzzled, his feelings hurt. 
"But I'm the — " he began again, nervously 
backing off the grassy path and into the 
nighl-blooming mooncreams that lined it. 
crushing some of the fragile flowerets. 

One of the medics spoke to the crowd. 
"Stand out of our way. please. We've a tight 
schedule to maintain." They pushed past 
him, and Phil stood staring after them, good- 
natured face blank, mouth hanging slightly 
open. It wasn't until one of his neighbors 
nudged him and said, "Better get along. 
Phil," that he came out of his daze and 
trotted along after the parade heading to- 
ward his cottage. 

(It was a parade that diminished rapidly. 
as more and more ol its components de- 
cided they could see more on their holos 
than by trying to crane over their neigh- 
bors' heads.) 

M-day plus twenty minutes. 

The security chief raised her hand to ac- 
tivate the cottage's announcer, but Janica 
opened her door, making it obvious that 
she had been watching the whole thing on 
her holo. The chief checked Janica's I.D, 
and compared her retina prints and pore 
patterns with the I.D. and— just to be sure— 
with central records. "Who else is pres- 
ent?" she asked Janica. 

"No one at the moment," Janica frowned. 
"But I do hope HI be allowed to invite some 
of my very special friends later . . ." 

"Naturally," the secoff nodded. "Within 
limits, as you've been told. And of course, 
if they're already here, within the village. 
We sealed your village as soon as — " 

"My termhus, Phil," Janica gestured 
casually to indicate the red-faced man el- 
bowing his way through the crowd, which 
was being kept well back from her door. 
To his outrage, he was checked out again, 
before being allowed into his very own cot- 
tage. Then the secoff nodded and ges- 
tured the medics with their carrier inside 
and firmly shut the door. 

(Only three of the medics actually went 
inside; the others either waited patiently in 
the grassy open space, the targets of nu- 
merous staring eyes, or moved off to other 
duties. Many of the watchers left, too. Star- 
ing at a closed door seemed rather futile, 
especially when the holos would be show- 
ing the scene inside, live.) 

Inside, the secoff was performing intro- 
ductions. "Citizen Janica Petain-Suharto, 
Citizen Phil Jones-Vishinsky, may I present 
Citizen Medic Herve Ling-Hart and his 
staff." She glanced at her wrist, her throat 
worked, and a subvocal message went out. 
(The team has your shelter set up, Herve. 
if the second and third shifts want to go 
and relax.) 

"Congratulations to the both ol you," the 
medic beamed, stepping forward and 
shaking hands vigorously. "If you'd care to 
see my credentials . . ." 

"No, no, Doc.'' Phil grinned heartily. 
"Good enough for the lieut here, good 
enough for this citizen, right, Lieut?" 

"You'll want to know the day's schedule, 
of course," the doctor nodded. 

"Schedule?" Phil was puzzled. He 
flopped downward, and an extrude slid out 
from the wall and caught him in a sitting 

position with neat precision. "I thought we 
had out choice. I thought—" 

"Yes and no," the doctor frowned. His 
own throat worked silently. (Weren't these 
citizens briefed, Shirza?) In his ears, a tiny 
raspberry ot disgust echoed. "Yes, there 
is a schedule, and I'm atraid we must insist 
it be adhered to. However, there is a cer- 
tain flexibility; within that and considering 
the subject's physical limitations — '" 

"Limitations?" Phil interrupted. "I thought 
nothing but perfect was allowed." 

"Oh, PM," Janica was disgusted. "Have 
you forgotten? They're smaller." 
"Oh." Phil's face cleared, 
"If you weren't so boringly handsome." 
she muttered. 

"The schedule," the medic hid his dis- 
gust better than Janica. "begins with 
awakening at aught six hundred precisely. 
Medichecks will take approximately ten 
minutes. Afterward, you two, and as many 
as four of your friends, can have breakfast 
with the subject — " 

"Yeah, we know," Phil was nodding. He 
loved to hand out favors. "You should see 
what me an' Janny— " (Janica winced; she 
had told himandto/dhim)"- -have whipped 
up for breakfast. He's gonna love—" 

"I'm afraid," the medic was very firm, 
"that the subject will be limited to the food 
we brought with us. However, you may eat 
whatever you have chosen." 

Phil frowned and reached out a hand 
with fingers properly positioned; a servo 
flashed out of the wall and inserted a lighted 
smokestick in them, "I can't even give him 
a taste?" 
"Not permitted. I'm very sorry." 
(Shirza, damn it, what kind of briefing — ) 
(They were briefed, Herve. Not our fault 
it didn't stick.) 

"That seems pretty unfair," Phil mut- 
tered. "I mean, how can I enjoy my treats. 
if all he gets is — I don't know, soyameal. 
or whatever you've picked. I mean, it's my 
day. How come/can't pickthe baby's meals 7 " 

"You can pick your own meals, Citizen 
Jones-Vishinsky. but for medical reasons 
we must see that the subject's diet is care- 
fully monitored." 
"Ya. Thought you said he was A-okay." 
"He is, he is. But he could get very sick 
if everyone just stuffed him with goodies 
all the time. You do see that, don't you? So 
we had to make a rule: diet administered 
by medics only. If we made an exception 
for you. well, we couldn't refuse anybody 
else, either. One treat might not hurt, but 

treats every day by all sorts of people . . ." 

Phil pouted. 

"Oh, Phil," Janica said, "don't be such 
a bore. He's right; rules are rules. That's 
the way it always is." (From her vast ex- 
perience of once before.) 

"Oh." He looked unappeased. He tou- 
sled his thick robin's-egg-blue mane and 
continued to look sulky; then he thought of 
another grievance. "You say— hasn't he got 
a name, anyway? You say he won't wake 
until oh six hundred?" 

Herve directed a burning look of re- 
proach at Shirza. 

"His name is Johann Meadows-Singh. 
And he will be awakened ai aught six 

"How come not until then? How come 
not the whole day 9 It's my day, isn't it?" 

"Oh, Phil!" Janica exclaimed. "He has 
to sleep just like anybody else, doesn't he? 
We won't lose any more time than anybody 

"Boredom! Why can't he do like any- 
body else who wants to put off sleeping 
for a day or two? Let him have some no- 
sleep like I use." 

"But he'd have to make it up later, dear, 
just like you do." She moved almost im- 
perceptibly on the lounge she was curled 
up on. and Herve automatically licked his 
suddenly dry lips. "So it wouldn't be fair, 
dear heart, to make somebody else have 
less, just so we could have more." She 
stretched- and Herve licked his lips 
again — to walk her fingers up Phil's flung- 
out arm. 

"Don't be a bore, darling. We'll take the 
no-sleep and amuse ourselves , ." Her 
fingers tickled behind his ear. 

"Boredom." Phil muttered again. "Can't 
even see him, for six more whole hours, 
my very own — " 

Herve cleared his throat. 'As for that, if 
you just want to see the subject . . ." 

Phil's frown disappeared. "Yeah, hey, now 
that's real blue of you, Doc. After all. we 
waited all these weeks . . ." 

The medic made some quick adjust- 
ments, and the opaque sides and top of 
the carrier slowly brightened and cleared, 
until its inside was fully revealed. The sub- 
ject, naked except for a simple loincloth. 
was lying on a soft white surface and was 
attached to various pieces of equipment. 
Phil gasped. 

Janica drew back, instinctively covering 
her gaping mouth with a trembling hand. 
Phil spoke first. "What — what's the mat- 
ter with him?" 

"Matter?" The doctor's professional pride 
was hurt. "Nothing's the matter with him, 
nothing at all. He's a beautiful 'malgam. A 
perfect specimen- 

(Herve. you idiot! They were expecting 
someone older!) 

"This is our very newest 'malgam for this 
sector. He was decanted less than six 
months ago. We've accelerated his growth 
somewhat, but — " 

"Why hasn't he got any hair. And why's 
his head so big? And why's he so small? 

"I assure you, that's all normal at this 
stage of his development. His hair and the 
rest of his teeth will come later. But our 
surrogates beg for subjects at this devel- 
opment level. Babies they used to be called. 
You can stretch out your hands and he'll 
stagger toward you on uncertain legs—" 

"He can't waikl" 

"Oh, Phil, do you think you were de- 
canted knowing how to walk?" 

"How should I know! You sure he can't 
walk 9 " 

"Just a little, as I said. Most surrogate 
parents love teaching children to walk." 

"But — but- -I was going to take him to 
the park, see. the kid and his old man, and — 
and— you know — pitch a few balls around. 
and maybe take him fishing. We've got a 
beautiful pond right here in the village. Even, 
if we had time, the old swimming hole. You 
know, simple, old-fashioned things, like in 
the good old days . . ." 

The doctor shook his head. "No, the park 
sounds fine — " 

(Checked out, Shirza?) 

(Need you ask, Herve!) 

" — but you won't be able to fish or swim 
or play ball. But you can play with your 
subject on the grass, have a picnic, show 
him around. The subject likes sweet-smell- 
ing things, bright colors . . ." 

"The pond, then Doctor," Janica sug- 
gested. "We have some lovely ornamen- 
tals in it— Vegan, I think." 

"Vegan? Is the pond seal-topped?" 

"Why, I — I don't know. I never stuck my 
hand in. Just looked." 

(It's sealed. Herve.) 

(Good. Might've known you wouldn't miss 
anything as obvious as that. I'd've hated 
to tell them no, after the way I built it up, 
but-- contamination . . .) 

M-day, 0930. The village park was of 
about average size, with grassy walks, 
bursts of color. Works of art here and there, 
from old-fashioned solid staiues (made of 

modern synthetics, though) to the newest 
sight/taste/sound synergies. (Several of 
Janica's light-sculpts were prominently 
displayed.) The pond, with its fluorescent 
Vegan gauzes. Nooks with seating, nooks 
without. Shade trees. A couple of rezball 
courts. The usual. 

The baby was chasing a butterfly. 

Most of the village inhabitants who had 
not been personally invited to join the party 
were out in the park, too, but maintaining 
a polite distance. Most were content sim- 
ply to watch, with far-lenses, but many were 
making holo records, despite the fact that 
the professional holo-porters were hover- 
ing overhead, taking everything down. 

Janica was preening. She was taking 
advantage of the attention and the 'porters 
by running through a whole series of her 
warm-up routines. When that palled, she 
took off her brightly colored halter top and 
dragged it by one tie enticingly near the 
baby. With a crow of triumph, the baby 
staggered toward the brilliant fluttering 
cloth. Laughing, Janica backed up, keep- 
ing the fascination just out of the reach of 
the chubby fingers. 

This gave Phil an idea. "You know," he 
said to the doctor, "if I had a ball and just 
sort of rolled it toward him . 

With a wink, the doctor produced a 
shimmering ball, and Phil, grinning broadly. 
rolled it gently along the grass toward the 
burbling child. 

The child abandoned the top for the ball. 
and Janica pouted. 

A stranger shyly approached her. Her 
smile at him was warmer than usual. 

"Look," his voice was soft, almost a 
whisper, his face beet-red under a too-thin 
amber paint job. "You don't know me, but 
I'm visiting a friend in this village today — " 
(Strictly illegal, but winked at by the se- 
curity officers, if not overly abused, After 
all, if someone said, "this is my new term- 
hus— or termwife — probationary, we 
haven't gotten around to registering it yet," 
most secoffs would smile and pass on. after 
thoroughly checking the newcomer out, of 
course.) "My name's Ali Pavlov-Lee, and I 
really hate to ask, but could I take a few 
holos of the kid? I mean, who knows when 
I'll get another chance, and—" 

He really was very good-looking, and 
Janica's voice deepened. "You didn't need 
to ask. Plenty of the others are taking ho- 
los. Just because you aren't a member of 
this village — he may be ours today, but he's 
everybody's baby, all the time. You have 
the same rights as anybody else." A slow 

smile grew over her face. "But it was sweet 
of you to ask to make sure it was all right." 

"Oh." Impossibly, his blush deepened 
even more. "I know that. Only, see, my tele- 
holo's broken. I'd have to come close, to 
be close, to get any good shots." 

She pinched his cheek lightly. "Of course, 
sweetie. Take as many as you want." A sly 
sidewise glance. "You can return the favor 

"Thanks. I— you know, he's the first I've 
seen, for real, I mean, up close. I — I really 
appreciate this, I do. I won't forget you — 
your kindness." 

"I hope not," she purred. Then, more 
loudly. "Phil, darling, how about letting Ali 
here get a few close-ups?" 

"Sure thing." hie didn't know the guy, but 
if he was a friend of Jannys . . . 

Ali took several shots from various an- 
gles, and soon everyone was showing off 
for him, laughing, catching the ball and 
throwing it, playing to make the baby laugh 
(Sylvie was amazingly successful with 
nothing but sticking her tongue out and 
crossing her eyes), all under the eyes of 
their friends, the holos, the professional 

Ali made his move with startling sud- 
denness. He tossed his camera at Phil, who 
was closesl to the baby. As Phil automat- 
ically caught the flying object with both 
hands, Ali swooped down and scooped 
up the child and was off and running, 

"Stop, you fool," Shirza shouted and be- 
gan chasing after him, afraid to use her 
weapons because of the child. "There's no 
place you can go — " 

In seconds a mob was forming in pur- 
suit, but Ali had picked his direction 
shrewdly. There were no cottages be- 
tween him and open country, and no peo- 
ple, either. 

Except Sylvie. who had wandered away 
to pick a spectacularly luscious tiger-striped 
trumpetbloom for the baby. Sylvie heard 
the screams, straightened up, and saw the 
man clasping the baby and heading al- 
most directly toward her. 

Ali saw the woman rise up out of her little 
depression, out of nowhere it seemed to 
him, and he swerved frantically. 

She screamed and began running to- 
ward him, waving the flower like a banner. 

"Watch out for the baby!" Herve roared. 

Sylvie could never have stopped him, 
not without hurting the baby. But his frantic 
swerve to avoid her gave Janica her 
chance. Legs flashing, she charged up 
behind him. An impossible leap, and she 

was sailing over his head, every light- 
sculpting-trained muscle acting with per- 
fect precision. As she soared, she flipped, 
too, and her hands darted out. And when 
she landed, lightly, on her feet, just as Syl- 
vie crashed head on into Ali. the baby was 
safely nestled in her arms. 

And it was all over. 

Firm hands pulled Sylvie to her feel, and 
she embraced her friend, and just for a 
second she felt in her own arms a soft, 
dirty, crying, smelly baby. 

Ali lay where he'd fallen, crying, sur- 
rounded by grim secoffs. "She only wanted 
a baby of her own," he sobbed. "A day. we 
only had a day. It wasn't enough. She 
wanted a baby of her own. She said she'd 
leave me if I didn't get her a baby of her 
own, her own. a baby of her own . . 

(Herve and Shirza exchanged glances 
over his oblivious head. Two for the treat- 
ment center . . .) 

Then Herve took the baby, and Sylvie's 
arms felt strangely empty. 

The rest of M-day was sadly anticlimac- 
tic, after the attempted baby stealing, and 
the whole affair served as a subject for 
conversation and holos. professional and 
amateur. Such a heroine Janica wasl And 
have you seen her latest sculpture? And 
when newer sensations made memories 
fade, holos got shoved to the back of stor- 
age and were forgotten. 

Only Sylvie could not forget the pow- 
dery-soft skin against her lips, the sweet- 
sour baby scent, the odd feeling that had 
welled up within her when she held the baby 
within the circle of her arms. 

Sometimes, during rest periods, with her 
termhus snoring exhaustedly and satiat- 
edly beside her, she would think about it, 
but her thoughts always went round and 
round in the same circle. 

Babies were only decanted at the POP 
centers, to replace the rare accidental 
deaths, computer-directed recombinant 
amalgams to replace lost genes and tal- 
ents. There was no way she could ever 
produce a baby herself, no way she could 
have a baby of her own. No way . . . 

And sooner or later she'd nudge Ray un- 
til he roused enough to offer her the only 
anodyne he could. But all too often, after- 
wards, he'd slide back into contented 
slumber, while she lay, unable even to dis- 
tract herself with soloholo lenses, because 
her thoughts persisted no matter what 
amusements the soloholo presented 

No way — only decanted at POP cen- 
ters — no way— no way . . 

A : Sf?J 


it was the ultimate 
gamble. The stakes? His life 


Everything seems to be 
in order. Mr. Welling- 
ton. You may now re- 
serve Ihe Body Ball at your 

"Very good. I'd like it on the 
seventeenth, at eleven." 

"It's available Ihen. sir. If you 
care to read through the con- 
tract, and sign it, we can 
proceed for that night." 

"That's not necessary. As 
long as the major points are 
the way we agreed, I'll sign." 

"They're as agreed, sir If 
you win at Body Ball, you 
colleci one million. If you lose. 
all your financial assets go to 
the syndicate, and . . ." 

"Nevermind. I know the 
second part of it very well." 

"Of course, sir." 

"That s the only thing that 
concerns me, frankly— the 
disposal of the body." 

"There is absolutely nothing 
to worry about on thai score, 
sir. It Will be disposed of per 
our agreement. We stand on 
our record, and I'm sure you 
are aware that we have been 
in business long enough to 
have an excellent one." 

Wellington nodded. "Well 
aware. I'll sign." 

At precisely eleven o'clock 
on the evening of the seven- 
teenth, Wescott Wellington 
pulled his Mercedes to the 
curb in front of one of a 
number of undistinguished 
row houses and turned it over 
to an attendant who had been 
waiting there. As the man 
drove the car off, Wellington 
rang a doorbell at the house. 
The door opened up 
automatically, and he was 
ushered inside by a voice 
coming from a wall speaker. 

"Good evening. Mr. Welling- 
ton. Welcome to Body Ball. 
You may hang your coat on 
the rack to your right, sir, and 
then enter the room directly 
in front of you." 

Wellington was surprised as 
he walked into the room, The 
Body Ball machine was 
gigantic. He'd known it would 
be large, of course, but had 
not imagined it as stretching 
nearly wall to wall and being 
ten to twelve meters wide. 
They must have torn down 
almost all the walls in the 
house to make the room large 
enough for it. On the other 
hand, aside from its size, 
nothing about it was ditferent 
from the hundreds of pinball 
machines he'd seen for 
almost as long as he could 
remember— noihing different 
on the outside, that is; the 

inside, of course, the part 
immediately below the playing 
surface, was far different- 
deep enough to hold a body. 

The giant pinball machine 
was the only thing in the room 
except for a chair in front of it 
and a few steps that led up fo 
its lower end. As for the room. 
around the upper meter or 
so ran a strip of mirrored, 
one-way glass, behind which, 
he'd been told, there would be 
spectators, both official for 
verification and some simply 
there to enjoy the show 

He eased himself into the 
chair slowly. His age and his 
paunch would be against him 
when he played the machine, 
of course, but otherwise he 
was a healthy man. Deeply 
tanned, impeccably dressed, 
gray hair darkened, fingers 
manicured, and already 


feeling an anticipation, a thrill that he had 
thought he had lost forever, he smiled when 
an attendant approached. 

"Way I be of service, Mr. Wellington? 
Something lo drink?" 

"No, thank you. The Body Ball is ready 
tor my use?" 

"Yes, sir May I help you with it?" 

"If you will." 

Wellington got up and slowly walked to 
the giant pinbali machine and climbed the 
steps down at its lower end. On the top 
slep he bent and went through a small 
doorway into the machine as the attendant 
hurried up the stairs behind him. 

Inside, still in a crouched position be- 
cause of the glass above him. a pane that 
extended over the playing area, he edged 
onto a bucket seat that was attached !o a 
wheeled scooter. The back of the seat rose 
to head level and was resting against the 
machine's giant plunger. 

"Now, sir, it you will permit me — ' 

The attendant, crouched beside him now. 
buckled and locked the seat belt carefully, 
and then did the same to belts at his ankles 
and wrists so that, besides being made 
safe against being thrown from the scooter, 
he was unable to guide it by using his limbs 
outside it, although he was allowed to use 
all the body English he was able to muster. 

"There you are. sir. All ready to go." 

"Thank you." 

"As soon as I get out and close the door. 
just call when you're ready and I'll send 
you on your way." 

"Right, It will be a moment. I want to re- 
lax some first." 

"Of course, sir. If I can be of more ser- 
vice, just give me a call. I'm here to help." 

"Thank you." 

As the attendant left. Wellington mused 
with a taint smile that it was only proper 
that he should be offered "service" at this 
time, the pinnacle of his career. God knows, 
he'd earned it. All ot it. Service came with 
the good life, the rich life. The gambling 
life. Millions won; millions spent. He'd had 
it all. He'd been everywhere, done every- 
thing, bought everything And all because 
of dice, cards, horses, the wheel, you name 
it. He'd always been a winner. Always. And 
he didn't have the slightest idea why. He 
had no system, no nothing. It was uncanny. 
He'd been barred from many a place 
through the years because of his continual 
winning; he'd had to disguise himself, use 
a phony name. 

He'd resented having to do that at first— 
the subterfuge — but gradually he had 

learned lo look forward to it. Because when 
you won almost consistently, gambling be- 
came — there was no other word for it - 
just plain boring. To him. anyway, and get- 
ting into the places he'd been barred from 
was a challenge and knocked the bore- 
dom for a while. Boredom, in fact, was his 
grealesl problem now. and he might even 
have gone into some other line of work ex- 
cept for the style of living he'd become 
accustomed to. and. boring or not, gam- 
bling was his life. 

When he heard ot Body Ball, he was at- 
tracted immediately, thinking it impossible 
to be bored by the game since he could 
never be certain that he was going to win — 
in the long run that is. One loss when play- 
ing Body Ball was the final one; there was 
absolutely no chance to recoup, to win. 
He'd be dead 

He knew the backers— casino people. 
They were reliable. He applied to play and, 
as he expected, was quickly accepted not 
only because they thought he had enough 
money to make it worth their while if he 
should lose but, far more important, be- 
cause he was a winner and because ca- 
sino owners wanted to get rid of winners— 
legally. Thai was why they had invented 
the game, he suspected, with its extreme 
penalty for losing. 

But why would winners play Body Ball in 
the face of such a penalty'' Well he didn't 
know what motivated the rest of them, but 
he knew about himself. He was here for the 
ultimate thrill, the greatest challenge, with 
absolutely no possibility of boredom. One 
loss ended it; if he lost, he lost his life. 

He had "practiced" a joke. He hadn't 
even liked pinbali when he was a kid: it was 
a game played by addicted robots- 
numbskulls, in his opinion, And, of course, 
there had been no money in it. But during 
the last few days he had wearily played 
dozens of times, always winning, of course. 
Even so, he suspected that the correlation 
between playing ordinary pinbali ma- 
chines and playing Body Ball was infini- 
tesimally slight, if existent at all. 

Now he would find out for sure. 

Taking a deep breath, he called out to 
the attendant that he was ready to start. 

"Very good, sir." 

He felt the scooter move as the plunger 
behind him was drawn back by a powered 
device. Slowly he rolled backward until the 
plunger was released abruptly and he was 
shot up an inclined corridor at stomach- 
jolting speed. 

Ahead of him. rising vertically at the 

higher end of the machine, a blinding array 
of colored lights began to flash spasmod- 
ically on a huge board; in the board's up- 
per center brilliant green lights spelled out 
body ball, and under the lights was a clock. 
Activated by the plunger's release, the 
clock's second hand was already moving. 
If he stayed on the playing area four min- 
utes — one minute for each letter in body— 
the exit slot at the lower end of the machine 
would automatically be closed at the end 
of that period of time by a device triggered 
by the ticking clock, and he would win his 
million dollars. 

If. on the other hand, he tailed to stay on 
the playing area four minutes and dropped 
through the open slot, a device, triggered 
by his falling body promptly slid the metal 
covering over the slot and him. With the 
covering closed, and with the rest of the 
lower part of the machine equally sealed — 
the part, that is. into which he had (alien — 
cyanide pellets were dropped into acid, 
releasing killing gas. 

His speed gradually lessened as he ap- 
proached the top of the playing area. Even 
so. the speed was great enough to jolt him 
harshly when the scooter hit a padded ob- 
stacle shortly after he rounded the top. The 
scooter, which had an inflated tirelike rim. 
bounced back with a jerk to the top of the 
playing area, and from here he would be- 
gin his all-too-speedy descent toward the 
exit slot at the bottom. 

Just below him now were two raised, 
parallel corridors. Hurtling backward, he 
went through one of them, bouncing oft its 
sides and triggering a barrage of blinding 
lights and a deafening cacophony of bells 
and buzzers on the vertical board and 
playing area (something, he was to learn. 
thai happened every time he struck any- 
thing). Coming out of the corridor at a slight 
angle, he crashed into a giant mushroom- 
shaped protrusion that, with its springy 
edge, spun him oft to another mushroom 
and he smashed against a rectangle- 
shaped padded obstacle near the left side 
of the playing area. From here he dropped 
alarmingly until he crashed into a flipper 
about halfway down the machine. The flip- 
per, activated on contact, shot him to the 
far side of the machine, toward the top, 
where he crashed into another mushroom, 
which smashed him into the bottom of one 
of the raised corridors, 

From here he rolled straight down the 
center of the machine toward the exit slot, 
skimming past two mushrooms and not 
even getting close to a flipper, even though 

he savagely yanked at the arms of the 
scooter with Ins belted wrists. He zipped 
past Iwo padded obstacles, another 
mushroom, and another flipper, gaining 
speed all the time. Ahead were Iwo more 
raised parallel corridors directly in front of 
ihe slot; below the corridors he saw there 
were only two flippers that could slop him 
from going through the hole. 

With desperate yanks of his wrists and 
body against the belts, he was able to jerk 
the scooter to the left enough to smash 
against the top of one of the corridors, which 
sent him back up the machine about three 
meters. Right backdown toward one of the 
corridors he sped, though, zipping through 
it cleanly and setting off an even more hor- 
rendous barrage of lights and noise, But 
again, using savage jerks, he was able to 
hit the last flipper before the exit slot; it 
slammed him to the far side of the ma- 
chine, where he hit another triangle-shaped 
padded obstacle with such force that he 
thought his head would be thrown from his 
body. Rolling backward, he crashed vi- 
ciously into another mushroom. This one 
shot him against another tire-rimmed ob- 
stacle. Then he bounced off it and landed 
against another flipper, which smashed him 
against the side of the rubber-rimmed ma- 

chine with such force this time that his head 
crashed into the back of the scooter, stun- 
ning him. Groggy, he hit a rubberized, fin- 
gerlike obstacle. 

And then he was speeding down again. 
A flipper jolt, and he was moving cross- 
ways, and then up once more. He was spun 
backward and came up heavily against a 
mushroom. Then he caromed off into an- 
other. Lights exploding before his eyes. 
Noise hammering him. Body spinning, 
jerked. Thuds. Crashes. Belts into gut. 
wrists, ankles. Up. Down. Across. Down. 
Up. Across. Up . . . 

He was near the top of the machine when 
the covering slowly slid over the exit slot. 
He had won — again. 

He felt the old boredom within days after 
he collected his million. And it wasn't long 
before it was unbearable again; worse, be- 
cause now. having won the ultimate gam- 
ble, what was left? It was impossible for 
him to really win. it seemed win freedom 
from boredom. Quit? Quit gambling? That 
thought itself was depressing enough to 
lead, finally, to thoughts of suicide. Gam- 
bling was his life. 

Was dealh belter than boredom? He was 
beginning to think so, 

As he was getting ready for bed one 
night, he gloomily came to the conclusion 
that it was. and he decided to play Body 
Ball again . . . and again . . and again . . . 
until he must lose. 

It seemed that he had no sooner got to 
sleep, though, than he woke up with a start, 
his boredom gone and his whole body tin- 
gling with life. 

He'd bet the Body Ball owners — with 
suitable odds, of course — that the cyanide 
pellets wouldn't drop into the pail of acid. 
How could he lose? 

The theme of "Body Ball" — a life-and-death 
spectator sport of the future — is not new. 
By placing it in a huge pinball machine, 
however, and positing a protagonist who 
is so bored with good fortune that he is 
willing to wager his life against impossible 
odds, John Keefauver adds piquancy to 
the plot. The Story is the third by Keefauver 
to be anthologized in this series, His fiction 
and satiric humor have been widely pub- 
lished, and some of his works have been 
anthologized in Random House's Hitch- 
cock collections. Keefauver categorizes his 
writing as fantasy rather than science fic- 
tion. After a long career as a newspaper 
reporter, he now resides in California. 

Edna chose to awake 
this morning io good 
old breakfast loop A. 
John was reading a 
newspaper over pancakes 
and sausages in the 
kitchen of their old home. 
The kids were gulping the 
last of their food and were 
anxious to be on their way 
to school. 

After yesterday's real- 
time-shared breakfasl with 
John, she really felt she 
needed the soothing old 
familiar tape from her files 
today. It rrtighl have been 
shot way back during the 
1987- 88 television season 
on a crude home deck, it 
might be snowy and shaky, 
bu! Edna still ran it three or 
four mornings a week in 
preference to !he breakfast 
soaps or more updated 
domestic footage. 
Somehow it captured what 
prime breakfast time with 
John and the kids had 
really been like, and 
somehow that made it 
her prime breakfast 
programming choice. 

Edna; Now. Sammy, you 
finish the rest of your milk 
before you run outdoors! 



They could live 

any fantasy; the trouble 

was the reality 



Sammy: (slugging down the rest of his milk) 
Aw. Ma, I'm gonna be late! 
Edna- Nol if you don't take your usual 
shortcut past the candy store. 

Of course the old tape hadn't been sho! 
from her stereo perspective, and there was 
something strange about seeing yourself 
in your own domeslic programming, and it 
certainly wasn't as well written as a break- 
fast soap, but then none of the soaps were 
personalized and none of her other do- 
mestic tapes with John had footage of the 
kids at grade-school age. 

John was always after her to share real- 
time programming with him. He'd voice her 
over on the communication channel and 
show her tapes he had made for himself 
with her in them, or he'd entice her with 
shared domestic lapes. or he'd bombard 
her with pom-channel footage 

But the domestic tapes he programmed 
for them to share all took place in exotic 
locales, and the story lines were strictly 
male-type fantasies— John's idea ol suit- 
able real-time programming for the two of 
them to share ran to camel caravans across 
the desert, spaceship journeys to strange 
planets full of weird creatures, sailing the 
South Seas, discovering lost cities, fight- 
ing m noble wars. And her viewpoint role 
was usually a cross between Wonder 
Woman and Slave Girl. Well, that mighl be 
how John wished to real-time-share with 
tier, but Edna preferred her soaps and ro- 
mantic historicals. which John categori- 
cally refused to real-time-share with her 
under any circumstances 

As for the porn channels that he wanted 
to real-lime-share with her. the only word 
was disgusting. 

Still, he was her husband, and she felt 
she had lo fulfill her conjugal obligations 
from time to time; so five or ten times a 
season she gritted her teeth and real-time- 
shared one of his crude male porn chan- 
nels in Ihe sex-object role. Less frequently 
he consented to time-share a historical X 
with her. but only because of the implied 
threat she'd withhold her porn-channel la- 
vors from him if he didn't 

So by and large it was mealtime pro- 
gram sharing that was their least distaste- 
ful channel of contact and the one that saw 
most frequent use, 

John: (wiping his lips with his napkin) Well , 
honey, it's off to the salt mines Ready to 
go. Ellie? 
Ellie: I got to make wee-wee first. 


A series of low, pink buildings, empha- 
sizing sunrise through the palm trees. 

Announcer's voice-over: (medium hard sell} 
Total Television Heaven, the ultimate retire- 
ment community for fortunate Electronic 
Age seniors 

A rapidly cut montage Irom the adven- 
ture channels, the pom channels, the soaps, 
etc Make it the most colorful and exciting 
footage we've got and emphasize expen- 
sive crowd scenes and special effects. 

Announcer's voice-over: (orgasmic) Twenty 
full channels of pornography, thirty-five full 
channels of adventure, forty channels of 
continuing soaps— live lull-lime, in over a 
hundred possible realities produced by 
the finest talents in Hollywood . . . 


Intelligent, with neat, dignified, gray hair. 
As hands fit stereo TV goggles over his 
eyes. (Earphones already in place ) 

Announcer's voice-over (institutional) You 
live as the viewpoint character in a won- 
derland of sex and adventure through the 
electronic magic of total stereo TV! 


Cast someone wilh recognition value 
who's willing to sign up tor a two-hundred- 
year annuity. 

Famous Old Actor: And that's not all! Tape 
your family! Tape your Iriends! Take your 
loved ones with you to Total Television 
Heaven and keep them with you torever! 
Act now . . . before it's too late. 


We see that the Famous Old Actor is 

being helped into a glass amnion tank. He 
keeps talking and smiling as the attend- 
ants strap him to the couch, tit the ear- 
phones and stereo TV goggles, hook up 
his breathing mask and waste lube, and 
begin filling the lank with fluid. 

Famous Old Actor: A vast lape library. 

Custom-cut programs to your order! I wish 
I'd signed up years ago! 

The throat mike is attached, his hand is 
taped to the tuner knob, the nutrient tube 
is inserted in his arm (no on-camera needle 
penetration, please), the amnion tank is 
topped off and sealed. The camera moves 
in for a close-up on the tace of the Famous 
Old Actor, seen floating blissfully in his 
second womb 

Famous Old Actor: (filtered) I'm never 
coming out — and I'm glad! 



The sun sinks into the sea in speeded- 
up time over the pink pastel client-storage 
buildings, and a glorious, star-filled sky 
comes on like an electronic billboard. 

Announcers voice-over (transcendent) No 
man knows God's inlenl for the hereafter 

bul at Total Television Heaven modern bi- 
ological science guarantees you a full two 
hundred years of electronic paradise in Ihe 
sa f ety and comfort of your own private tank. 
And a full annuity cosls less than you think! 


John: Maybe we can make it oul to the lake 
this weekend. 

Edna: Supposed to be clear, in the sev- 
enlies, I heard on the weather . , . 

This season John had been acting 
stranger and stranger, even during their 
mealtime sharing His conversation was 
becoming more and more loulmouthed and 

even incoherent. He had taken to appear- 
ing in elaborate character roles even over 
breakfast, and yesterday's real-time-shared 
breakfast had been just about more than 
Edna could take. 

He'd voiced her over the night before 
and invited her to breakfast the nexl morn- 
ing in Hawaii, where they had real-time- 
shared their honeymoon in the dim, distant 
pasl- so many seasons ago that no re- 
cording tape of il existed: none had been 
made way back then, before anyone had 
even dreamed of retiring lo Total Television 
Heaven. It had been a very long time in- 
deed since John had invited her to real- 
time-share their pasl at all, even in a re- 
constructed version, and so when he told 
her he had custom-programmed breakfast 

on the beach m Hawaii, Edna had been so 
thrilled that she agreed to time-share his 
breakfast program against what had lately 
been becoming her better judgment. 

The program wakened her to sunrise on 
the beach, the great golden ball rising out 
of the dark sea in speeded-up stop-motion 
animation like a curtain going up. illumi- 
nating the bright blue sky that suddenly 
flared into existence as she found herself 
lying on the sand beneath it. 

This to the theme of an ancient prime- 
time show called Hawaii Five-0, as a 
majestic breaker railed and broke, rolled 
and broke, again and again, in a closed 
loop beyond the shoreline foam. 

John appeared in the role of a tanned, 
blond, muscled Adonis wearing a ludi- 
crously short grass skirt A breakfast table 
was set up at the edge of the sea itself, in 
the foot-high wash of foam kicked up by 
the eternal rolling wave that towered and 
broke, towered and broke, above them. 

Naked, godlike Polynesians— a youth for 
her. a maiden for John — helped them to 
their teet and escorted them to the wicker 
peacock chairs on either side of the strange 
table. The table was a block of polished 
obsidian on Victorian-looking brass legs; 
there was a depression in the center, out 
of which a grooved channel ran to the sea- 
side edge of the tabletop. 

This was certainly not their Hawaiian 
honeymoon as Edna recollected it, and she 
didn't need a tape to be sure of that! 

"Welcome. love goddess of Ihe north, 
to my groovy pad." John crooned m a 
strange, cracked voice. He clapped his 
hands. "An oblation in thine honor," 

The naked maiden produced a squeal- 
ing piglet, which she pressed into the pit 
in the center of the table. The naked youth 
handed John a huge machete. "Hai!" John 
screamed, hacking the piglet in half with a 
swipe ol his blade. Blood pooled in the pit 
in the table, then ran down Ihe groove to 
the edge and dripped off into Ihe sea As 
the tirst drops of blood touched the ocean, 
the water abruptly changed color, and a 
towering wave of blood arched over them. 

A few moments later, when the eternal 
wave was blue water again and Edna's 
viewpoint angle returned to a shot on the 
table, the gory mess had been replaced 
by a white tablecloth, two plates of ham 
and eggs, a pot of coffee, and a bottle of 
dark island rum, 

"Oh, John." she said disgustedly, "it's all 

so . 

"Eldritch' 7 Excessive? Demented?" John 

said petulantly, crotchety annoyance 
crackmg his handsome, twenty-year-old 
features. "You're such a timid bird. Edna. 
No sense of fun. No imagination." 

"Killing things is not my idea of either tun 
or imagination," Edna retorted indignantly. 

John laughed a weird, nervous laugh. A 
whale breached not far offshore, and im- 
mediately a giant squid wrapped tentacles 
around it. A fight to the death began "Kill- 
ing things?'" John said. "But there's noth- 
ing alive here to kill! This is Heaven, not 
Earth, and we can do anything without 
consequences. What else can we do?" 

"We can have a normal, civilized break- 
fast like decent human beings " 

"Normal, civilized breakfast 1 John 
shouted "Decent human beings!' A vol- 
cano erupted somewhere inland Terrified 
natives fled before a wall of fiery lava, "Who 
cares aboul being decent human beings 
when we're not even alive, my princess?" 

"I haven't the faintest idea what you're 
talking about," Edna said primly. But of 
course some small part of her did 

"Sure and begorra. you do, Edna!" John 
said mockingly "Avast, matey, what makes 
you so sure we're still alive? For lo. how 
many television seasons has it been since 
we retired? A hundred? Two hundred? Ver- 
ily and forsooth, time out of mind. Can you 
even guess, my slave girl? I can't." 

Edna blanched. She didn't like this kind 
of talk at all. It was worse than his machis- 
mo adventure programs, worse than the 
porno programming he enjoyed pulling her 
through, worse on a whole other level she 
had trained herself not to contemplate 

"Of course we're alive." she said. "We're 
real-time-sharing now, aren't we?" 

Bathing beauties water-skied in a cho- 
rus line through the curl ol the wave. A 
flying saucer buzzed the beach. A giant 
crab seized their servants in its pincers It 
whisked them away as they screamed 

'Ah, mine Aphrodite, how can we be sure 
of that? Thou couldst be croaked and I 
could be tuning in to an old tape where 
you still lived. Har-har I could be dead ex- 
cept in this program of yours." 

"This is certainly no program of mine. 
John Rogers!" Edna shouted "Only you 
could have invited me lo a breakfast pro- 
gram like this!" 

"I stink. Iherefore I am." John cackled. 
Lightning rattled. Schools of porpoises 
leaped in and out of the great wave. 

And so it had gone. Nubian slaves light- 
ing cigarettes, Dancing gulls. An orgy se- 
quence. And all throughout it, John bab- 

bling and ranting like a demented parrot 
in his beachboy body. Only one thing had 
kept Edna from tuning him out and tuning 
in a breakfast soap, and that was the dim, 
distant thought that to do so might precip- 
itate ihe final break between them, the break 
between her and something that she could 
no longer conceplualize clearly. 

John: (rising from the table! What's for din- 
ner tonight, by the way? 
Edna. Roast chicken with that corn bread 
stuffing you like. 

He kisses her briefly on Ihe lips. 

John: Mmmmm . .! I'll try to pick up a bol- 
tle of that German wine on the way back 
from work if I'm not too late. 

He opens the door, waves, and exits. 

Edna: Have a good day. 

But now, while she watched her image 
bid good-bye to John as he left for work 
on that dim. fuzzy old tape she found so 
soothing. Edna wondered how long it would 
be before she would consent to real-time- 
share a meal with the "real" John again a 
John she no longer recognized as the hus- 
band in her domestic tapes, a John she 
was not sure she wanted to know about. 

After all. she thought, tuning to Elizabeth 
the Queen her favorite historical romance 
of this season, too much of that could rum 
her domestic tapes with John for her. and 
then where would she be if she could no 
longer live comfortably in her past? 

Right now she was seated on her throne 
in the early evening light, and Sir Walter 
Raleigh was bowing to her with a boyish 
twinkle in his eye that made her quiver. 

Rolling among naked teen-aged girls in 
a great marbled Roman bath. Popping off 

Indians with his Remington repeater. 
Swinging on a vine through a jungleful of 
dinosaurs. Leading the pack around Ihe 
last turn at the Grand Prix de Monaco. 

Boring, boring, boring! Irritably John 
flipped through the broadcast channels, 
unable to find anything capable of holding 
his attention. What a lousy season this was. 
even worse than the last! There wasn't a 
single adventure program that had any 
originality lo it: Ihe porno channels made 
him think of Edna and her damned dis- 
approval of anything still capable of turn- 
ing him on; and old domestic tapes, he 

knew, would just make him furious. 

01 course he had a big file of classic 
recordings and custom- prog rammed fa- 
vorites to draw upon when real-time pro- 
gramming got boring, and so he started 
flipping through his videx, desperately 
looking (or something to fill this time slot. 

Flying his one-man space fighter low over 
an. alien glass city, shattering the crystal 
towers with his shock wave as he rose to 
meet the bandits. Chasing a fat merchant- 
man under a full head of sail: Avast, me 
hearties, prepare a broadside! Auctioned 
as a sex slave to a mob of horny women. 
Doing a smart left bank around a sky- 
scraper, with Lois Lane in his arms, 

He really had some choice footage in his 
tape library, but he had run all of it so often 
down through the long seasons that every 
bit of it seemed engraved in his real-time 
memory. He had lost the ability to surprise 
himself, even with how gross he could get. 
and he had to go further and further out to 
avert ... to avert ... to avert , . . 

Onward, the Light Brigade! Thousands 
of screaming teen-aged groupies mobbed 
the stage, grabbed his guitar, tore off his 
clothes. "Frankly, Scarlett," he said, as she 
sank to her knees, "I don't give a damn." 

If only Edna had the gumption to be a 
real wife to him! Lord knew, he tried to be 
a real husband to her. Didn't he regularly 
invite her to real-time-share the porn chan- 
nels with him, and didn't he take pains to 
choose the most far-out sex programming 
available? Didn't he invite her to all his best 
adventure programs 7 Didn't he invite her 
to the best mealtime custom programming 
instead of the same old domestic tapes? 

He did his best to make her program- 
ming day interesting and surprising, and 
what did he get from her in return? A lot of 
whining about his dirty mind, a determi- 
nation to get him caught in one of those 
saccharine historical X's with her, and a 
dreary desire to mealtime-share the same 
musty old domestic tapes over and over 
again. What was the purpose of retiring to 
Total Television Heaven in the first place if 
you were afraid of grossness, if you in- 
sisted on realism, if all you wanted was to 
watch endless reruns of the same old, bor- 
ing past? 

Striding through the jungle, a great, hairy 
gorilla beating his chest while the natives 
flee in terror. Executing a snappy Immel- 
mann and coming up on the Red Baron's 
tail, machine guns blazing. Getting head 
from the legendary Marilyn Monroe. 

Damn it, retiring to Total Television Heaven 
before either ol them was sixty-five had 
been Edna's idea in the first place, John 
told himself, though a part ot him knew that 
wasn't exactly totally true. With the kids at ' 
the other end of the continent and the 
economy in such bad shape and nothing 
interesting going on in their real-time lives 
it was only his job that had kept them from 
trading in their Social Security equity for a 
two-hundred-year annuity to Total Televi- 
sion Heaven. He figured that if he could 
work another ten years and save at the 
same rate, it would enable them to buy an 
extra fifty years of Heaven. But when the 
cost of living rose to the point where he 
wasn't saving anything . well, at that point 
he hadn't really needed that much con- 
vincing, especially since there was a ru- 
mor that Social Security was about to go 
bust and the smart thing to do was get into 
Heaven while you could. 

Bui what good was two hundred and ten 
years in Total Television Heaven if your wife 
insisted on living in her tape loops of the 
past? How much fun could you have if all 
you had to rely on was the broadcast pro- 
grammers and your own imagination? 

Making love to a fair rescued damsel on 
the steaming corpse of a slain dragon. The 
image began to flicker. Diving out of an 
airplane, spreading his arms and flying like 
a bird: the air seemed to turn to a thick, 
choking fluid Tarzan ot the Apes, making 
love to an appreciative lioness, felt an un- 
comfortable pressure against his eyeballs. 

Oh. God. ii was happening again! For 
some time now something had been cor- 
roding John Rogers. He could feel it hap- 
pening. He didn't know what it was, but he 
knew that he didn't want to know. 

I'm /List sick and tired of having to till 
every time slot in my programming day with 
something I have to choose myself, he told 
himself nervously. Sure, he could time-share 
with Edna and let her fill some time slots 
tor him. but her idea of programming made 
him want to puke. 

In fact, the lover of the insatiable Cath- 
erine the Great felt a bubble of nausea ris- 
ing within him even as the beautitul czarina 
crawled all over him. Napoleon's mind felt 
a nameless dread even as he led the 
triumphal march through Paris. Because 
the thought that had intruded unbidden into 
his mind was. What would happen if he 
didn't choose anything to fill the lime slot? 
Was it possible? Would he still be there? 
Where was there? 

And questions like those brought on the 

leading edge of an immense, formless, 
shapeless, choking dread that took him out 
ot the viewpoint character and made him 
see the whole thing as if through the eyes 
of a video camera: lines of dots, pressure 
against his eyeballs . . . 

He shuddered inwardly, Convulsively he 
switched to a domestic porno tape ot him- 
self and Edna making love in the grass on 
the slope of a roaring volcano, She 
screamed and cursed and moaned as he 
stuck it to her, but ... but . . . 

Edna. I've got to get out of here! 

But what can I possibly mean by that? 

Frantically he voiced her over. "Edna, I've 
got to real-time-share with you," he said 
shrilly. "Now!' 

"I'm tuned in to China Clipper now, and 
it's my favorite historical X," her voice-over 
whined as he continued to pound at her 
under the volcano. 

"Please, Edna, porn channel Eight, real- 
time-share with me now, if you don't , , . if 
you don't . . ."A wave of molten lava roared 
and foamed down the mountain toward 
them as Edna moaned and swore toward 
climax beneath him, 

"Not now. John, I'm enjoying my pro- 
gram. ' her distant voice-over said. 

"Edna! Edna! Edna!'' John shrieked, 
overcome with a terror he didn't under- 
stand, didn't want to understand. 

"John!" There was finally concern in her 
voice, and it seemed to come from the Edna 
who thrashed and moaned beneath him in 
orgasm as the wave of lava enfolded them 
in painless fire. 

'John, you're disgusting!" she said at the 
height of the moment. "If you want to time- 
share with me, we'll have to go to a do- 
mestic tape now. Loop E." 

Raging with fear, anger, and self-loath- 
ing, he followed her to the domestic tape. 
They were sitting on the back porch of their 
summer cabin at the lake, overlooking the 
swimming raft, where the kids were playing 
a ragtag game of water polo. Oh. Jesus . . . 

"Now what's got you all upset. John?" 
Edna said primly. 

John didn t know what to say. He didn't 
know how to deal with it. He didn't even 
wan! to know what he was dealing with. He 
was talking to a ghost, He was talking to 
his wife talking to a ghost. He . . he 

"We've got to do more real-time-sharing. 
Edna." he finally said, "It's important. We 
shouldn't be alone in here all the time." 

"I haven't the faintest idea what you're 
babbling about," Edna said nervously. "As 
for more real-time-sharing, I'm perfectly 

willing to share mealtimes with you on a 
regular basis if you behave yourself, Here. 
At the house. On our honeymoon. Even in 
a good restaurant. But not in any of your 
disgusting programming, John, and that 
goes double for the porn channels. I don't 
understand you, John. You've become 
some kind of pervert. Sometimes I think 
you're going crazy." 

A burst of multicolored snow flickered 
the old tape. Edna sipped her lemonade. 
His eyes ached. He was choking. 

"Im going crazy?" John cried thickly. 
"What about you, Edna, living back here 
and trying to pretend we're really still alive 
back then, instead of here in . . . in — " 

"In Total Television Heaven, John." Edna 
said sharply. "Where we're free to prog ram 
all our time slots to suit ourselves. And if 
you don't like my programming you don't 
have to time-share it. As for your program- 
ming. I don't know how you stand it." 

"But I can't stand it!" John shouted as a 
water-skier was drawn by a roaring speed- 
boat past their porch. "That's what's driv- 
ing me crazy " From somewhere came the 
sounds of a softball game. A 747 glided 
by overhead. 

"Daddy! Daddy!" the kids waved at him, 

"But this is worse!" he screamed at Edna, 
young and trim in her two-piece bathing 
suit. A neighbor's dog came up, wagging 
its tail, and she gave it her hand to lick. 
"This isn't real, and its not even an honest 
fantasy; you're dead inside of here. Edna, 
living through your old tape loops, floating 
in . . . floating in . . ." 

He gagged. An image of 3 fetus faded 
in, faded out, faded in again. He feit some- 
thing pressing against his face like an ocean 
of time drowning him, pulling him under. 
Nothing was real. Nothing but whatever 
Edna had become speaking through her 
long-dead simulacrum near the lake. 

"Stop it, John! I won't listen to such filth!" 

"Oh, Jesus, Edna, we're dead, don't you 
see? We're dead and drifting forever in our 
own tape loops, and only — " 

"Good-bye, John." Edna said frostily. 
taking another sip of lemonade. "I much 
prefer the way you were to this!" 

"Edna! Edna! Don't break the time-share! 
You're all that's left!" 

Edna: Say. honey, why don't we go inside 
and make a little love in the afternoon. 

A thunderclap rends the sky. It begins 
to rain. Edna laughs and undoes the halter 
of her swimsuit. 

Edna: Oh. I'm getting wet. Why don't you 
grab a towel and dry me off, 

"Oh, no, no!" John shouted as his view- 
point followed her. For she was no longer 
there, and he remembered every scene 
every angle, every special effect of this 
program. Something inside him snapped. 
He had to get out of here. He switched his 
videx to rapid random scan, unable to think 
of choosing a program to fill his time slot. 

Getting head from Marilyn Monroe sail- 
ing the Spanish Main — fetus floating in the 
eternal amnion — a giant gorilla chasing 
dusky natives from dinner with Edna and 
the kids in the dining room of their house — 
a million flickering electronic dots against 
his eyeballs — flying like a bird through the 
towers of New York around the Eiffel 
Tower — choking in the sea of time — lead- 
ing the cavalry charge to plant the flag on 
Iwo Jima— lungs straining for a surface that 
wasn't there — stepping out of the air lock 
under triple suns— trapped in syrupy 
quicksand forever — arriving at the sultan s 
harem in King Arthur's squad car — 

Awake, aware, alive for a long, horribly 
lucid moment — floating and choking in (he 
amniotic quicksand with meaningless im- 
ages attacking his eyeballs — waking up 
Irom a long suffocation dream into a long 
suffocation dream that wouldn't go away, 
couldn't go away, or there'd be — 

Dueling with the musketeers swinging on 
a vine through the jungle of the Great Bar- 
rier Reef with Edna in a hammock scream- 
ing orgasm in the harem with a dozen houris 
soaring through space screaming around 
great ringed Saturn screaming against the 
dead cold black phosphor-dotted ever- 
lasting void drowning choking screaming 
god oh god oh oh oh — ■ 

As she faded out of the viewpoint char- 
acter of Elizabeth the Queen, Edna thought 
of John. How long ago had that terrible 
tmal real-time sharing taken place'' Was it 
still the same television season? 

It was time for dinner, and she pro- 
grammed dinner loop C. She. John, and 
the kids were seated at Thanksgiving din- 
ner. She was wearing her Sunday best, the 
kids were neat and combed, and John was 
wearing a suit. 

John: This stuffing is delicious, honey! 
Sammy: Can I have the other drumstick? 

Elite: Pass the cranberry sauce. 
Edna: It's wonderful to have a quiet 
Thanksgiving dinner just for the four of us, 
isn't it, John? 

Edna felt so contented, so at peace with 
herself and her family, so right with the world. 
/ really should invite John to real-time-share 
this wonderlul Thanksgiving, she thought 
maternally / rea//y ought to give him one 
last chance to be a proper father to the 
kids and husband to me. 

Filled wilh Christian charity, she voiced 
over to his channel. 'John?" she said, 
scooping up mashed yams with brown 
sugar and passing the salt to her beaming 
husband, who planted a little kiss on her 
wedding ring en passant. "I'm having 
Thanksgiving dinner with you and the kids, 
and I'd like you to be a good father and 
real-time-share with us.' 

There was nothing on the voice-over 
channel for a moment as John handed the 
drumstick to Sammy. Then, as Sammy took 
it from him and bit into it with boyish gusto. 
John screamed. 

An endless, ghastly, blubbering shriek 
that rattled Edna's teeth and poisoned the 
moment with unremitting horror. 

'John Rogers, you're an animal. I don't 
know you anymore, and I don't want to!" 
she shouted back at the horrid sound and 
broke the connection once and for all, 

John: Don't gobble your food. Sammy, or 

you'll turn into a turkey. 

Sammy: (turkey sound) Gobble, gobble! 

All four of them laugh heartily. 

John: Please pass me some more of the 
peas, honey What do you say. kids, isn't 
your mother the best cook in the world? 
Sammy and Ellie: Yay, Mom! 

Edna beamed as she handed John the 
bowl of creamed peas. He smiled at her. 
Edna relaxed. How good it was to have a 
nice, civilized Thanksgiving dinner with your 
husband and your family just the way you 
liked it. Peaceful and loving and together 

She decided to play a romantic porn 
program after dinner. She would meet John 
in an elegant cafe in old Vienna, waltz in a 
grand ballroom, share a bottle of cham- 
pagne on a barge m the Seine, and then 
make love on a bear rug in front of a roar- 
ing fireplace. She knew that everything 
would be just perfect. 




It was an exclusive hotel— you had 

to kill someone to get in. 
Only the jury could check you out 



The apartment was 
neat, stylish, and com- 
fortable— nal at all like 
a machine designed for kill- 
ing people 

For a few seconds after 
the entrance door had 
locked itself behind him, 
Renfrew stood perfectly 
still, taking stock of the 
place, trying to identify the 
most likely sources of 
death, The kitchen — al- 
ways the most complicated 
room in any habitat — was 
one area that obviously had 
to be avoided Every parti- 
cle of food and drop of liq- 
uid was suspect in case 
poisons had been adminis- 
tered; the appliances could 
have been wired in such a 
way as to electrocute the 


nd the 

bright-lettered canisters 

could be bombs that would 
explode on removal of their 
lids. Even the simple act of 
opening a cupboard door 
might release a cloud of 
instant-acting gas into his 
face, and one startled in- 
take of breath would be 
enough to . . . 

If you want to stay alive, 
Renfrew thought, keep out 
of the kitchen. 

From his position near 
the entrance he could see 
into the bathroom, and that 
also looked dangerous — 
too many chrome fittings 
that could spring bad sur- 
prises. He was going to 
survive the mandatory 
seven days in the apart- 

ment— of that much he was 
sure— but to do so. he 
would have to be fantasti- 
cally careful. The best plan, 
the one he had already de- 
cided upon, was to make 
himself as comfortable as 
possible in the center of the 
living-room floor and to re- 
main there until the seven 
days were up. It would not 
be easy or pleasant — the 
matter of bodily functions 
alone would see to that— 
but it was a straightforward 
choice between life and 
death, and Renfrew much 
preferred being alive. 

He walked into the living 
room and checked it dut 
against his requirements. It 
measured roughly ten by 
ten. had blue wall-to-wall 


carpeting, and was furnished with a good- 
quality settee, easy chairs, and occasional 
tables. Several original abstracts adorned 
the cream-colored walls The room could 
have belonged to a youngish, intelligent, 
not excessively trendy person living just 
about anywhere between New York and 
Los Angeles — except for two atypical fea- 
tures. One was the complete absence of 
windows, and the other was the display 
tube m the wall above the artificial fire- 

On the screen, in pulsing amber sans- 
serif lettering, were two words: jury out. 

Renfrew examined the room critically and 
decided at once that the largest table, po- 
sitioned near the middle of the floor, would 
have to be moved against one of the walls 
to give him the clear central space he 
needed When the room armed itself against 
him. he was not going to risk even the most 
fleeting contact with any of the artifacts it 
contained. For all he knew, every piece of 
furniture would begin to ooze contact poi- 
son as soon as the jury returned the ver- 
dict of guilty, and he wanted to be sure he 
would not roll over in his sleep and touch 

The table was surprisingly heavy when 
he tried to move it, and for a moment Ren- 
frew feared it was anchored to the floor. 
He changed tactics, pushing instead of 
lifting, and this time the table slid fairly eas- 
ily, creating deep furrows in the carpet. 
When it had come to rest against the wall, 
he stepped back with widespread arms 
and gauged the size of the area he had 
cleared. It appeared ample for his needs. 

This seems a shade too easy, he thought, 
his confidence faltering. Nobody knew what 
percentage ol condemned murderers ac- 
tually lasted out the week— it was the prac- 
tice, for humane reasons, to whisk survi- 
vors off to colony worlds in total anonymity 
and secrecy— but if the system could be 
beaten merely by camping out in the cen- 
ter of a room, would they not modify it? 
Was there a chance that the carpet itself 
could become toxic? Or that rapiers would 
zip upward through the floor during the 

No. that wouldn't be fair, Renfrew de- 
cided, his fears abating somewhat. That 
way the apartment would be nothing more 
than an execution chamber, and the whole 
point of the Capital Punishment Reform Act 
of 2061 was that it removed the awful fore- 
knowledge of death —the feature of earlier 
systems to which humanitarians had most 
strongly objected. There had to be some 

prospect of getting through the week alive. 
It was simply a matter of intelligence de- 
termination, and self-control. And of last- 
ing seven days without a drink of water 

The prison micropedia had been annoy- 
ingly imprecise about how long a man could 
survive on zero liquid intake. Some of the 
quoted authorities had avoided giving any 
estimate at all, and others had been con- 
tent to state that death would occur after 
seven to ten days. The spread, Renfrew 
supposed, was due to such factors as the 
size, weight, and general health of the sub- 
ject and the rate of water loss from the tis- 
sues, and in that respect he was doing ail 
he could to tip the balance in his favor. He 
was naturally pudgy around the middle, and 
throughout the four days of his trial he had 
loaded all his food with salt and had drunk 
copiously of tea. coffee, milk and water. 
His tendency to retain fluids, something he 
had often bemoaned in the past, had en- 
abled him to increase his body weight by 
approximately five kilograms— equal to four 
liters of life-giving liquid. 

That alone would probably be sufficient 
to ensure his survival, but Renfrew had gone 
further. Knowing in advance that he would 
be stripped ol all personal possessions 
before being installed in the apartment, he 
had taken time after breakfast to spray most 
of his skin with an antiperspirant. which, 
fortunately, was quite odorless. He sus- 
pected that its effectiveness would fade 
rather quickly, but closing his pores and 
preventing evaporation for even part of a 
day gave him that extra edge m the battle 
for life. Only two more measures remained 
to be taken 

Renfrew glanced at the screen above 
the fireplace checking that the jurors were 
still deliberating. He had been in the apart- 
ment less than five minutes, but his de- 
fense had gone so seriously awry that he 
was half-prepared for a verdict to be 
reached in record time. Fortesque. the 
young, state-appointed attorney, had tried 
to make capital from the fact that the store 
security guard shot by Renfrew had him- 
self been indicted, for the manslaughter of 
an unarmed kid who had tried to run off 
with a tray of gold rings. The proposal had 
been that Renfrew was defending himself 
against a trigger-happy zealot, but it was 
obvious to Renfrew that the jurors were in 
favor of trigger-happy zealots and would 
have been pleased to employ teams of them 
to safeguard their own property. At that point 
he had begun thinking very hard indeed 
about ways of surviving for a week in— to 

give the apartment one ol its more popular 
labels — the Hereafter Hilton, 

The first of the remaining precautions was 
to reduce evaporation of bodily moisture 
even further by turning the heat down. 
Renfrew located the thermostat and ad- 
justed it to its lowest level. He then went 
into the kitchen, filled a tumbler with waler, 
and began sipping it with the intention of 
increasing his fluid reserves. The notion of 
filling all available vessels and laying in a 
week's supply ol water was tempting, but 
too dangerous. Any microscopic bubble m 
a glass could be a poison container to be 
opened by remote control as soon as the 
jury had voted. A low but insistent chiming 
sound filled the apartment. He set the tum- 
bler down, went back into the living room, 
and looked at the screen. 

It now said, jury voting, 

"Vote early and vote often." Renfrew said 
aloud in jocular tones trying to neutralize 
the spasms of alarm he had felt on realiz- 
ing that his very existence was now being 
laid on the line. He took a cushion from a 
chair and set it in the middle of the floor, 
then hesitated, frowning. A cushion was 
just as much an artifact as a microwave 
oven, just as capable of being booby- 
trapped. He skimmed it back onto the chair 
and squatted on the carpet, his face turned 
toward the screen as he waited lor the final 
announcement. In addition to his fear he 
could feel powerful undercurrents of ex- 
citement, and it came to him that the pro- 
visions of the 2061 act had been success- 
fully implemented in the present system. 
He was about to be sentenced to death. 
Yet he had absolutely no sense of immi- 
nent doom. 

The inevitable reaction to the steady in- 
crease in violent crime had begun in the 
last quarter of the twentieth century with 
one state after another reintroducing the 
death penalty. By the middle of the twenty- 
first century capital pumshmeni had be- 
come almost universal, coast to coast, and 
the moral dilemma facing the legislators 
had grown in proportion How could one 
condemn killing on the one hand while 
going on taking human lives with the other 7 
Variations in the actual method of execu- 
tion had been tried, but the principal ob- 
jections to legalized killing had remained 
the same: It was totally inhuman to tell a 
man exactly when and how he was going 
to die, then leave him to sweat out his time. 
And if the state was inhuman, could its cit- 
izens be expected to be otherwise 7 

It was basically a question of how to be 

cruel in a kindly way— and a workable an- 
swer had come along in 2061. The lengthy, 
soul-destroying delays of earlier systems 
had been eliminated by direct implemen- 
tation of the majority vote of a thirteen-man 
jury, and the dreadful certainty of death 
had been replaced by the challenge of a 
week in the apartment. Not only were the 
exact time and method of execution de- 
cently shrouded in mystery, but there was 
also a ray of hope that the grim event could 
be avoided altogether And that made an 
the difference. 

Renfrew found that he was tense, alert. 
■ stimulated and— above all— confident that 
he was going to beat the system. There 
remained only a trace of furtive, niggling 
doubt. His idea seemed foolproof, but it 
had been rather easy to conceive. It had. 
in fact, been the first scheme to blossom 
in his mind, and he knew perfectly well that 
he was anything but a genius — if he could 
come up with a successful plan, anybody 
could Did this mean that nobody but the 
occasional moron ever paid the supreme 
penalty? Or was there some other incon- 
spicuous factor he had overlooked? 

There was another chiming sound, and 
the message on the screen was replaced 
by a new set of words scribed in raw crim- 


On the lower part of the display a sweep 
hand began remorselessly erasing a sixty- 
second clock. I'm going to be all right, he 
Ihought. All I've got to do is stay put for 
seven days 

His gaze picked out two vertical cracks 
in the skirtmg board of the wall opposite 
him. It looked as if a small, flap-type door 
had been built into the base of the wall. He 
stared at the door feeling oddly threat- 
ened as he tried to guess its purpose. 

Robotic cleaners! 

The apartment was as immaculate as 
only an automated cleaning system could 
make it, which meant that at night, when 
the occupants were asleep in bed, silent 
little machines came out of the wails and 
scavenged every speck of dirt But he 
wasn't going to be in bedl He was going 
to be laid out on the floor while the busy 
robots came nosing and nuzzling around 
him. and any one of them could be capa- 
ble of killing him m a dozen different ways 

Renfrew looked at the clock. Twenty 
seconds until the apartment declared war 

He half-rose, his face turning toward the 
kitchen, Was there time to run in there, 
snatch up the lightweight table, and get 
back with it 7 Would he be safe squatting 

on top of the table 7 What if he were to . . .? 

His hands fluttered to his mouth as he 
heard the final chime that signaled the ju- 
ry's verdict. He glanced involuntarily in the 
direction of the screen, then froze, his chin 
sagging with incredulity as he read the three 
words electronically emblazoned across 
the face of the tube. 

verdict: mot guilty. 

The breath left his body in a noisy, qua- 
vering sob He pushed a hank of hair away 
from his forehead, as if giving himself a 
better view of the glowing words might 
change their import The message re- 
mained the same. He was a free man! 

Renfrew got to his feet, suddenly con- 
scious of how much he had been dreading 
the ordeal that had lain ahead. He took a 
last look at the apartment, gave a low 
chuckle of relief, then strode to the door 
with a buoyant tread, keyed up for his first 
taste of liberty in many months. 

The doorknob did not turn when he 
grasped it. 

Instead it fired a cloud of poison through 
the skin of Renfrew's palm, a poison so 
swift-acting that he had no time to realize 
he had been tricked by executioners who, 
m their determination to be humane, were 
not above telling a little white lie. 

She tried to rekindle that sense 

of wonder, o! enigma . . . of 
shoes, ships and sealing wax. 






Ahree men are walk- 
ing on the beach below; one of Ihem will be 

I stand at the top of the dune, my feet a 
liltle apart, braced against the wind. Gritty 
sand seeps into my leather sandals, and 
my long blond hair whips around my face, 
covering my eyes, then uncovering them, I 
know how I look to the men below, in this 
bikini-clad body the color of fresh toast. 


The first man jogs toward me. He is 
perhaps 30, tall, dressed in jeans and a 
bulky red sweater with the knotty bumps of 
inexpert hand knitting. He moves easily, in 
loose, even lopes that smooth out the rocky 
ground underfoot, humming an aria off key. 
I know he will not do. I look away, and he 
jogs by with only one regretful look back 
over his shoulder. 

As the second man comes closer, I see 
that he is quite young, still half child, and 


that he is so absorbed in the book he is 
reading as he walks that he hasn't noticed 
me at alt. He holds the book with both 
hands, fingers and thumbs splayed to keep 
the wind trom turning the pages. Over the 
top of the garish dust jacket, an artist's 
inventive misconception of a spaceship. 
the boy's eyes are wide, pale blue, the 
pupils dilated as they move intently back 
and forth over the page. I can't keep from 
smiling— certainly not him! 

The third man approaches slowly, from 
the opposite direction. He is quite far away; 
I wait patiently, the bracelet on my arm 
glowing not entirely in reflection of the sun- 
set over the ocean. He is looking not at the 
sunset but down at his feel, picking his 
way over the rocks, avoiding wetting his 
shoes in the tide pools. Even I can tell they 
are expensive shoes — Italian?— and that 
they have been carefully chosen to match 
his gray slacks and open-neck siik shirt. 
He frowns at the rocks, lips together his 
jowls a bit too heavy and his eyes a bit too 
red. I touch my bracelet and start down 
the dune, angling toward the tine of high 
rocks he will cross next. When he is on top 
of them he sees me coming toward him. 
stops, waits. 

"I wonder if I might borrow a cigarette." 
My voice is husky, low— what I think of as 
a deep purple voice. Such men always have 

He hands me the cigarette wordlessly, 
his eyes appraising They are tight gray, 
starllingly pale against his Ian. and very 
hard, i take the unlit cigarette and drop it. 
grind it on the rock beneath my sandal and 
start to run, already changing. By the time 
I am halfway down the line of rocks per- 
haps 30 feet away from him, the scales 
have already begun to appear on my legs 
and rump, bright green scales the color ot 
new grass. I dive from the end of the rocks, 
an impossibly high dive for my starting po- 
sition, curving in a high arch and hanging 
there, suspended against the sunset as 
dancers of ballet — the most beautiful thing 
I have seen here — seem to hang sus- 
pended before the downward plunge from 
their crackling leaps By the top of the dive, 
my legs have already fused to tail, silver 
green in its backward flip over my bare 
breasts. I hit the water in a cloud o! golden 
spray, then up again for my hair to writhe 
around me in the foam. I just catch his face 
in the nanosecond of change from shock 
to fear, and then I dive again, my tail break- 
ing surface, clear against the flaming sky. 
This dive is deep, cold, and strong, only 

the glow from the bracelet guiding me. un- 
til I surface in the power room, aboard ship, 
beyond the moon 

"Good morning. Mr Carruthers, sir. 
Twenty-sixth floor'' 

"Please. Jerry," 

"Good morning, sir How nice to see you 

"Morning, Louise. This the mail? I'll take 
it in with me." 

"Welcome back. Mr Carruthers Did you 
enjoy your vacation away from the office? " 

"Very nice David, see if Mr. Poole can 
see me, right away, in my office ." 

"Certainly, sir." 

"Louise, coffee for two." 

"Right away, sir." 

'At — good lo have you back! So how was 
the action at the Cape"? Lots of sun 9 " 

"Lots Josh, what's this report I got trom 
Sam Lister on the oil deal 9 Who the hell 
came up with those cock-eyed figures on 
the new shoreline rigging method, and why 
were they leaked to the press without 
checking with me?" 

"I can explain about that. Al." 

"I hope so. I ceriamly hope so 

"Let's go into your office. Can we oh 
here comes the coffee already. Right on 
top ot it. as always! Now. about the oil fig- 
ures . . Ihe strategy was—" 

The child is not quite three. He stands 
behind the tarpaper shack, barefoot on the 
dusty ground, sucking his thumb. Small 
night noises, crickets and rabbits and the 
sloughing of wind in pine, are drowned Out 
by the screaming coming from the shack. 

"Lousy bitch!" 

"No, no, Lew— God, Lew, no!" 

"Lousy fucking bitch!" 

The child looks over his shoulder at the 
shack. There is a sore on the shoulder, 
oozing pus the color of rotted peaches. 
The dull nonexpression on the child's face, 
in his dark dead eyes, doesn't change until 
another sound comes from the shack, the 
thud of fist on flesh and bone, followed by 
a keening wail that dies away in more thuds. 
The child yanks his thumb from his mouth 
and starts to run. legs pumping and the 
babyish curve ol his belly swaying from 
side to side, until he reaches the dark edge 
of the wood He runs into a blackberry 
thicket, starts to yell, and then abruptly 
stops, staring back at the shack The 
blackberry thorns grab his cotton shirt and 
wet diaper, draw blood that trickles down 
his arms and dusty feet in thick, sticky trails 

The child makes a low whutfling sound, 
eeehhh eeehhh, without hope His dull face 
still has not changed expression. 

I hop from a clump of ragweed, in the 
random moonlight my fur is white, except 
for pink nose and ears and the glowing 
bracelet where my paws become tiny pink 
hands. I can feel the absurd white cotton- 
tail twitching behind me, rising with each 
hop and then falling as I sit up on my 
haunches and use my hands to free the 
child from the blackberry thorns He gazes 
at me and puts his thumb in his mouth. The 
shack behind us is silent. 

I twitch my nose at him. then my ears t 
cover my eyes with my hands and peek at 
him through the lingers. Slowly, reluctantly, 
as if it is being dragged from him and he 
will regret it later, the child smiles. His milk 
teeth gleam in his dark little face. I twitch 
my nose again, pick a blackberry, and hold 
it out to him. It is hard and sour, not yet 
npe. but he eats it. In the warm darkness 
his wondering gurgle carries clearly, sharp 
as a sword. 

"It's the environmentalist lobby. Al. that's 
the real stickler Bunch of bleeding hearts, 
but they're organized, and they've got their 
votes, Danchell, for one— he needs the 
support or it's no-go next election, after 
that Medicaid fiasco m his district. We can 
get our votes, too, o! course- no problem. 
Cranston's in Washington now — but not 
cheap. You gotta remember that with the 
new process the whole shoreline is going 
to end up a real mess, and everybody's 
holding out for enough time to ride out the 
public yelling I carried those figures here. 
which is why the total might look a little 
high to you, but I fixed it so it wouldn't to 
the audit boys, if it comes to that." 

"How much shoreline are we talking 
about. Josh 7 Exactly." 

"Twenty point six miles On your map— 
from here to here. Mostly US Seacoasl 
Wildlife Preserve— a few small fry. No 

Picture three successive circles, inter- 
locking but not by much. In the first lies the 
immediate sensory world — or what you 
think is the immediate sensory world. The 
warm rain on your bare arm. the elusive 
smell of lilacs, the bitter aspirin dissolving 
on your hung-over tongue. Your child in 
your womb, your woman in your arms, your 
feces in your bowels pushing downward. 

In the second circle lie the systems of 
your mind, social constructs for creating 

necessary order. The Town Line Road. 
Swiss tranc, Holy Mother Church, matri- 
archal lineage, Napoleonic Code. Mon- 
archy, democracy, dictatorship, oligarchy, 

communism, socialism. Freemasons, Dow 
Chemical Company, Boy Scouts, Black 
Hand. Created order, as opposed to. say 

a ? + b 2 = c 1 ', which is merely discovered. 

In the third circle lie the ambiguities, the 
questions without answers, the lonely 
province of poets and mystics. You wake 
in the night with the warm wind blowing the 
curtains in the open window and turn over 
in the darkness. For a second you are aware 
of the blood in your veins, warm and full, 
and the strong beat of your heart against 
the sheet, and you think; Yes, but why? 
before sleep ebbs back in long waves, and 
the question is forgotten. Forgotten, some- 
times, until the very end. when it seems too 
late to ask it after all. Why here? Why me? 
Why now? And after now— what? What be- 
fore? And how? Misty questions, changing 
shape even as you look at them, like the 
bright swirls of color on your inner eyelids 
that come only from closing your eyes too 
hard. The questions children ask— some 
children, the children who pause in the 
baseball game at dusk, chewing on the 
soiled thumb of their fielder's mitts, to watch 
the stars come out and wonder. The third 
circle is fluid, shifting the "real" so treach- 
erously underfoot that it becomes danger- 
ous to move, and the best recourse is to 
stand still and wonder, letting the believed 
and the unknown dissolve into each other, 
The circle itself may not even be round. 

"Tyler estimates maybe four months, five 
at the outside. He'll put the money through 
Mexico, no problem there. But it would be 
best to be underway by October, if pos- 
sible, because OPEC may be shifting its 
policy then, according to what Mahjoub has 
been feeding us." 

Carruthers leaned back in his chair. It 
was a wing chair, one of a pair, hand-em- 
broidered in the rich, discreet patterns of 
Jacobean crewel. With one finger he traced 
the 20.6 miles of shoreline on Poole's map. 
Rocky, most of it. and wild — he'd been there 
once on vacation. 

"Josh, you ever have something com- 
pletely inexplicable happen to you, some- 
thing you couldn't account for any way at 
all? Something maybe unreal?" 

Poole lit a cigarette, gaining time while 
he assessed the question. II could be an 
oblique reference to some mistake Car- 

ruthers had once made — as a prelude to 
one of Poole's? The press leak? But he had 
already pointed out . . . or was the ques- 
tion something else entirely, some subtle 
way of maneuvering, of throwing him off 
balance so Carruthers could probe for any 
hidden intentions, weaknesses, over- 
looked threats? Or was it an invitation, a 
first step toward an alliance against some 
coalition Poole hadn't yet seen forming but 
Carruthers had? But a man who needed 
an ally was a second choice to be one him- 
self. Always try to ally yourself with the al- 
ready unshakable. 

Finally, Poole said cautiously, "How do 
you mean 'inexplicable.' Al? Did some- 
thing happen up at the Cape?" 

The boys play at the edge of the moor. 
Behind them stretches a plain of heather. 
before them a rainy pasture, tingling with 
green all alive-o. Between heather and 
pasture is a crumbling stone wall, two feet 
high, that was ancient five centuries be- 

"Bang!" shouts one of the boys, waving 
a plastic machine gun in the general di- 
rection of the other young boy. "Got yal" 

"Did not!" 

"Did too!" 

"Did not!" 

"Bloody well did too! Lie down, you have 
to be dead!" 




"Well, you got to! Them'sthe rules!" 

"Won't! You missed 1 ." 

"Did not!" 

"Did too!" 

I come around the end of the wall, 
wheeling a barrow full of iron ore. I am only 
as tall as the wall itself, and almost as old. 
Knotted gray beard, pointed brown cap, 
jerkin and breeches covered with earth from 
the mines. Only the bracelet glows bright- 
ly — that and my eyes, fiercely blue m the 
wrinkled sea of my ancient lace. 1 stop 
pushing the barrow — the rocks clink to- 
gether softly in protest— and stare at the 
boys, who look back at me without wonder. 

"Bang!" shouts the first boy. "You're 

It is a forbidden indulgence to despair. 

Carruthers ignored Poole's counter- 
question. 'Just 'inexplicable' — in any sense 
we're used to dealing with. Beyond the way 

things usually behave." 
Poole had had time to make a decision. 

They didn't come any tougher than Car- 
ruthers. any more ruthless; anything Poole 
revealed about past mistaken percep- 
tions, past misjudged deals, would be too 
risky. He put down his cigarette and lifted 
the coffee mug, aware even through his 
tension of its heft, its expensive solidity. 

"No." Poole said over the rim, "I can't 
really say that I have. Al. Usually I can find 
the explanation for pretty near everything 
that happens." 

The two men stared at each other. 

I swoop down over the near-desert, 
reaching the lowest point of my wide pa- 
rabola over a ranch house, then rising again 
over the heads of dusty, unnoticing sheep. 
People run out of the open barn, their heads 
tipped back toward the night sky. 

"Did you see it, Dad? Did you? What do 
you think it could have been?" 

The man spits into the dust. "Lightnin', 
most likely. Heat lightnin'." 

"Sure." the woman says, relieved. "Hot- 
ter 'n hell tonight." 

"No, it wasn't, Dad! It was too . . , too 
shaped. Like a silvery oval. It looked more 
like . . , like a ship." 

The man snorts. "Too much comics, boy!" 

"Heat lightnin'," the woman says. 

"But you saw it had—" 

"That's enough." the man says sharply. 
"We got work to do." He spits again, turns, 
and walks back to the barn. The other two 
follow, but I see the boy look back over his 
shoulder at the starry sky, his face lighted 
by doubt and longing and a suspicious as- 
tonishment, and 1 am satisfied. The Others 
will complain — no, never complain, but 
point out with gentle, relentless clarity — 
that the power drain for this sort of thing is 
i. but I am satisfied. It is worth it. 

"So we have two options, then," Car- 
ruthers said crisply, once more all busi- 
ness. "We can go ahead with the shoreline 
project and make damn sure Cranston gets 
the Washington boys to shove the right pa- 
pers around, or we can let this one go to 
the environmentalists with lots of hue and 
cry. and rack up brownie points, cash, and 
voting positions for the big push on the 
Yukon deal." 

Poole blinked. "But I didn't think it was 
ever a question of — " 

"Those are the two options. Josh. And 
I'm the one who makes the final decision, 
right. Josh?" His eyes chilled the room, light- 
gray ice. 
. Poole put down his cotfee mug; a few 

drops spilled over the edge, onto the teak 
table. "Of course, Al!" he said. 

"So you better get on the phone, Josh, 
and plug your little press leak. The paper 
will need a retraction," 

"Yes, Right away." 

"I hope it wont damage your network. 
Or anything.'" 

"Not al all, Al." Poole said genially, back- 
ing from the room. He backed into the door. 

"You didn't make any premature per- 
sonal investments in the land without tell- 
ing me, did you, Josh? Of course not." 

"Of course not." 

"Good. Get on it right away, then," Car- 
ruthers said. 

Always the third circle slide's down into 
the second. The mysteries of faith harden 
into the certainties of dogma; the revolu- 
tion becomes the new government; the 
scientific theory habituates into the factual 
limits showing why something else can't 
be done. Wondrous, theoretical, possible, 
probable, factual, expected, mandatory. 

I point this out, yet again, to the Others. 
They want something more dramatic and 
definite. I can tell; something more like last 
time. Not this guerrilla warfare: hit and run, 
hiding under this world's own debunked 
mysteries to rekindle that sense of wonder: 
of enigma, of things not absolutely com- 
placently unarguably certain: that it so 
desperately needs. 

Look at what happened last time, I say 
again. Afterwards. Anything too organized 
will defeat its own purpose. That's the 
treacherous genius of their minds: to codify. 

Uriel murmurs assent; I can tell he agrees 
with what I am doing, 

But the time, Gabriel says. There isn't 
much time. Look a! the physical state of 
the little world, even now. What if you can't 
do whatever it is you hope to do with all 
this furtive sneaking about . , . in time? 

For answer. I slip on the bracelet. It starts 
to glow, and I feel the power fill me. 

The middle-aged woman in black stands 

alone by the flowerless grave, staring down 
at the raw earth. A shopping bag with string 
handles rests on the ground next to her; it 
bulges with the disparately shaped out- 
lines of powdered milk, cat food, and day- 
old sweet rolls. The woman is not crying. 
Her face is set in the sagging lines of re- 
signed defeat, curving troughs from nose 
to mouth, like wobbly parentheses. She 
stands motionless, her wide knees a little 
apart, not even waiting. Just standing. The 

tombstone says 'John Alfred Reznicki." 

I climb from behind the tombstone to on 
top of it and gaze down at her. I. too, am 
middle-aged — or would be if I were totally 
corporeal, which I am not. It is very hard 
to hold the slate between here and not here, 
a state intended only as transition, not pro- 
longed exercise. My bracelet glows franti- 
cally, and I put my right arm behind my 
almost-back. It is doubtful that John Alfred 
would have worn a bracelet. 

The woman looks at me with steady eyes. 
They are dead-leaf brown, and they don't 
widen or close or shift away. I watch her 
closely. Nothing. 

"Rosa." I say gently. 

She continues to watch the tombstone 
with detached calm. It is not the calm of 
shock; she is not in shock, but I nearly am. 
She knows there is nothing after death. 
knows it beyond needing to doubt, knows 
it with every undeviating cell of her gray 
mind, and so is literally incapable of seeing 
what she knows does not exist. She looks 
through me levelly. straightforward, utterly 
unshaken in her unwondering certainty. 

Gabriel is surely right. There is not much 
time left. 

Carruthers turned his chair to face the 

window. The skyline was impressive even 
through fog. but he didn't see it. Absently 
his finger traced the line of coast on Poole's 
map. up and down and up again. Out the 
window he saw ocean, ocean in sunset, 
and the impossible flash ot a green-scaled 
tail above bare breasts ringed with flailing 
blond hair and sea foam. 

But how could it be impossible if he had 
seen It? 

Carruthers knew he was not going mad, 
was not a man who stood in danger of 
madness. He might easily stand m danger 
of sudden coronary, hypertension, kidnap- 
ping, stroke, emphysema, gangland mur- 
der, or lung cancer— but not madness. He 
trusted his judgment; it had proved too 
good too often not to trusl. In his judgment, 
he had seen the impossible. Therefore, it 
was not impossible He had seen it. 

But what else might then be possible? 
Jesus H, Christ— /usr what e/se might be 

Uriel murmurs again about the power 

drain, but not very seriously. He knows that 
I know he will manage, somehow. And we 
both know that this, however bizarre the 
procedure, is a Major Project. 

Salvation is expensive. 





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